September 9, 2023
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines is deeply concerned that Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese ignored egregious violations of human rights by the Philippine government when he met President Ferdinand Marcos Jr today to discuss strengthening cooperation on defence, maritime security and development.
“Only in January this year did the Marcos Jr. government accept that 65 Filipino trade union leaders had been killed in the last 6 years due to the so-called counter-insurgency policy which defines trade unionism as terrorism. Yet President Marcos Jr. failed to implement any of the recommendations from that ILO High Level Tripartite Mission. Another union organiser was murdered in Negros in April,” said Peter Murphy, Chairperson of the ICHRP Global Council today.
“The previous Australian government played a major role in drafting the Philippine Anti-Terrorism Act 2020 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, which have contributed to red tagging and arbitrary freezing of assets of non-terrorist organisations such as Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, the indigenous Cordillera Peoples Alliance, the United Church of Christ Haran Center in Davao, and the national women’s alliance Gabriela,” said Murphy. “Australia should be criticising and monitoring the consequences of that law and not endorsing the Marcos Jr regime for US alliance reasons.”
ICHRP has called for the USA, Australia and other nations to cease all military aid to the Philippines until human rights are assured. Australia provides military training to 170 Filipino officers every year in Australia, and also sends mobile training teams to the Philippines, under an Enhanced Defence Cooperation Program. Unarmed civilian political activists from all sectors – workers, farmers, Indigenous peoples, women, students, and professionals such as environmentalists, journalists, lawyers and judges – are killed by state forces, with over 450 such cases during the Duterte presidency.
Prime Minister Albanese’s public statements and those of his Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles focus on the tension between the Philippines and China. The most recent initiative for the Australian Navy to jointly patrol with the Philippine navy in the South China Sea could lead to Australia’s military having armed clashes with Chinese forces.
“ICHRP opposes China’s violation of the Exclusive Economic Zones of the Philippines and other South China Sea states, and urges a cooperative effort of all those governments to demilitarise the South China Sea,” said Murphy. “We urge Australia to become a very high-profile supporter of this approach, rather than getting more deeply compromised by its increasing engagement with the Philippine military.”
The Philippine military is designed to fight its own people, resulting in terrible human rights and international humanitarian law violations to freedom-loving Filipino people. Australia’s decades-long support for this counter-insurgency war has only made this situation worse. ###
For comment: Peter Murphy, Chairperson, ICHRP Global Council +61 418 312 301