Posting and sharing this presentation of the Philippine reality on Human Rights Situation taken from a document of the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines – ECUVOICE and the Philippine Universal Periodic Review Watch – UPRWatch.

Photo courtesy of JIP.PH via Google.

Very recently, January 28, 2020, another lawyer, Carlos M. Anselmo, is killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen in front of a church in Sta Rita town in Pampanga. He became the 29th lawyer killed in the Duterte administration, and the 46th in total in the legal profession, including prosecutors and judges. His driver, Marcial Mendoza, was also killed in the attack.

In January 25, 2010, the compound of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP)- Haran was locked down as tensions arose when para-military group Alamara armed with bolos forced their way inside. The incident happened a week after the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) Region 11 passed a resolution which seeks to close the UCCP Haran Center. The UCCP-Haran provides a sanctuary to Lumad from the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao de Oro, Bukidnon and North Cotabato who are fleeing their homes due to massive militarization in their communities. Currently they have at least 500 lumads in the compound.

The Philippines is experiencing a human rights crisis under the administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. Since President Duterte came into power three years ago, the climate of impunity in the Philippines has turned from bad to worse. The devastating impacts of President Duterte’s drug war and counterinsurgency campaigns have spiraled into an open season for attacks against human rights defenders and vocal critics of its policies that are detrimental to the people, especially the poor and women. His administration is also assaulting press freedom and the freedom of expression and of association, greatly contributing to the severe shrinking of civic space in the Philippines, amid the effectivity of the State’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute.

The government’s campaign against illegal drugs, which according to various reports have victimized around 30,000 mostly poor people, have rightly attracted national and international attention. But there is also a growing concern about the targeting of farmers, indigenous peoples, trade unionists and other rights defenders actively resisting economic exploitation, land grabbing, and forced displacement. The presence of soldiers in rural communities has resulted in the evacuation of nearly half a million Filipinos. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), paramilitary units under its control, and the Philippine National Police (PNP) continue to be implicated in EJKs, enforced disappearances, torture, and illegal arrests and detention.

According to KARAPATAN – Alliance for the Advancement for People’s Rights, since the beginning of President Duterte’s term in office, victims of politically-related human rights violations include over 266 extrajudicial killings, 404 frustrated killings and 10 forced disappearances, 593 illegally arrested and detained, and 288 political prisoners under his term, bringing the number of political detainees across the country to 545.  Two hundred sixteen of the 266 victims of politically-related EJKs were peasant activists and 54 were indigenous peoples.

The breakdown of the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has also complicated the crisis. The government has launched its campaign to end the decades-old armed conflict with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA) through its counter-insurgency program called Operational Plan (Oplan) Kapayapaan and now Oplan Kapanatagan.

The government’s campaign to end insurgency does not distinguish between combatants and civilians. In the island of Negros for example, 17 victims, including a 1-year old baby, were killed during the month of July alone. The island of Negros has experienced a very disturbing pattern of human rights violations in recent times since the murder of known human rights lawyer, Atty. Ben Ramos, and the massacre of nine farmers in Sagay in 2018. There was also the illegal arrest of Jimmy Teves, a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and his church members along with members of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in Buenavista, Himamaylan, Negros Occidental last June 26. The recent victims include two lawyers, a former mayor and his cousin, a city councilor, a village chief, a principal, a doctor and other human rights defenders and community leaders. Activists and human rights defenders have pointed to President Duterte’s Memorandum Order 32 of November 2018 ordering additional troops to Negros as well as Bicol and Samar for the increasing number of attacks against civilians.

Most of the killings of human rights defenders in various parts of the country follow a pattern wherein they are publicly vilified first through posters and streamers accusing them as members or sympathizers of the NPA. Thus, the putting up almost weekly of streamers and posters in Cagayan de Oro, provinces of Zamboanga del Sur and Misamis Occidental linking Bp. Felixberto Calang, Bp. Antonio Ablon and Fr. Rolando Abejo, Fr. Allan Khen Apus, and Fr. Christopher Ablon of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), peoples’ lawyers, journalists and other rights groups including the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, with the CPP-NPA is a major cause for concern. There were also slogans painted on walls in Mindanao accusing UCCP, IFI and other church groups as supporters of the NPA.

As with previous administrations, church people were not spared from violence and abuse. Three Roman Catholic priests, a lay preacher of UCCP in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte, a lay worker of the IFI Diocese of Romblon-Mindoro, and a Pastor of the Kings Glory Ministry, Mindoro Oriental were killed. The list now includes Neptali Morada of the Iglesia Unida Ekyumenikal, who was murdered last June 17, and lately, UCCP Pastor Ernesto “Tata” Estrella who was killed last August 2, in North Cotabato.

The unabated and egregious violations of human rights in the country have prompted various national and international organizations to express concern about the worsening climate of impunity and the constricting space for civil society.  The 2018 report of Global Witness which was released last July states that the Philippines is now the deadliest country in the world for land and environmental activists. The report stated that at least 30 defenders were murdered in the country in 2018. This report is just the latest among a number of national and international rights organizations who have sounded the alarm about the human rights crisis in the Philippines. Last June 7, 2019, a group of UN human rights experts released a rare joint statement calling on the United Nations to establish an independent investigation into human rights violations in the Philippines.

Note: In italics are my few inclusions… Underlined and in italics are recent informations…

For your reading,

1 Comment

  1. Dear Bishop Ablon, thank you so much for your meaningful contributions. The people of Koblenz District are with you and greet you cordially. Sincerely Your Wilfried

    Liked by 1 person

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