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End the harassment, persecution, illegal arrest and killing of human rights defenders, church workers, organised farmers and workers

HE Rodrigo Roa Duterte

President of the Republic of the Philippines

Malacanang Palace

Manila, Philippines

[email protected] or send message through

Dear Excellency,

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines was launched in July 2013, at an international conference in Quezon City.

We are alarmed at the “Red October” scare you and your government’s Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) have concocted and the series of terrible abuses of people’s rights that have followed – surveillance of activists, illegal arrests, enforced disappearances, political killings and a massacre.

September 28, 2018: Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) Rev. Felix C. Espra Jr., parish priest of Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur, reported that the walls of his chapel were painted with the markings “IFI=NPA.” Another set of painted markings were found along the highway in Brgy. Lacupayan, Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur with the following texts: “UCCP=NPA,” “IFI=NPA,” and “Bishop Ablon=NPA.” This action puts the churches on a military hit list. IFI Bishop Antonio Ablon is also the current chairperson of Karapatan Western Mindanao chapter.

September 30, 2018: Banners were hung at bridges in Balibago, Angeles, and Pampanga with the following text: “Karapatan, terrorist protector”.

October 1-5, 2018: Karapatan received text messages maligning the organization and its regional chapter in Cagayan Valley. The messages wrongfully tagged Karapatan as a legal front of the New People’s Army, and of being “huwad na makatao (pro-people phonies).” This puts Karapatan on a military hit list.

October 2, 2018: The military released a list of institutions supposedly linked to the fictitious “Red October” plot to oust your government. The list, which was initially composed of 10 universities, increased to 18. This endangered these institutions and their respective staff, teachers, students, and personnel.

October 4, 2018: Gerry Basahon, peasant leader of the Misamis Oriental Farmers Association and Gabriela Misamis Oriental provincial coordinator Merlita Dorado were illegally arrested on trumped-up charges of attempted murder and frustrated murder. Basahon and Dorado were among the 11 members and leaders of progressive peasant and Lumad organizations who were falsely charged with the same offenses. The two were released on bail on October 12, 2018.

October 4, 2018: Banners with the text: “Karapatan at CPP-NPA ay iisa at parehong terorista” (Karapatan and CPP-NPA are one and both are terrorists) were seen hanging along footbridges in Quezon Avenue.

October 5, 2018: Three Lumad leaders were illegally arrested by elements of the 36th Infantry Battalion – Philippine Army (IBPA) in Sitio Poog, Maitom, Tandag City, Surigao del Sur, Caraga region. Enecito Catapte, chairperson of the Sustinidong Ipalambo ug Depensahan ang Lumadnon Kahiusahan Alang sa Sumusunod nga Kaliwatan (SIDLAK), along with fellow members Junie Catapte and Lito Delicona were taken by soldiers and are currently held at the 36th IBPA headquarters in Tandag City. SIDLAK is an indigenous organization advocating for the defense of their ancestral domain, opposing the entry of mining and logging concessions.

October 5, 2018: The Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao (CTCSM) reported the tailing of its faculty and students when a delegation visited families in Kidapawan, North Cotabato, to render health and cultural services, and when it was returning on October 7.

October 6, 2018: Two men visited the office of the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (KPNE) in Matulungin St., Brgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, and claimed to be doing a survey. The suspicious men asked if there was an “Ilocano” staying in the office. When a KPNE staff asked for their agency and identification cards, the two immediately left. KPNE linked the harassment incident to the recent visit of Sherwin De Vera, the organization’s regional coordinator in the Ilocos region. De Vera visited the office 2 days prior to the incident. De Vera has been the target of continuous harassment and intimidation efforts, with a trumped-up case lodged against him and his name included in the Department of Justice’s proscription petition, on top of several posts red-tagging him on social media.

October 10, 2018: At the Pulot Bridge and the highway along the said bridge in Brgy. Pulot, Ozamiz City were painted: “IFI=NPA”, “UCCP NPA”, and “Bishop Ablon = NPA”. This was reported by Fr. John Sanchez of the Diocese of Ozamiz, Iglesia Filipinia Independiente.

October 11, 2018: Striking workers of SUMIFRU, a Japanese multinational company, were violently dispersed by elements of the military, police, and the company’s security personnel. Around 400 workers were injured while 2 were reportedly arrested. The workers are organized under the union Nagkahiusang Mamumuo sa Suyapa Farm (NAMASUFA), an affiliate of the National Federation of Labor Unions- Kilusang Mayo Uno (NAFLU-KMU). The union was certified by the Department of Labor and Employment as a Sole and Exclusive Bargaining Agent (SEBA) since 2010. The workers mounted their strike on October 1, 2018, to demand the regularization of workers and to push the company to negotiate with them on the basis of a Collective Bargaining Agreement proposal filed in August 2018. The dispersal was justified by the perpetrators on the basis of Martial Law in Mindanao.

October 11, 2018: Mary Ann Gabayan, secretary general of the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA), was tagged as a terrorist, and also accused as a mistress of a local official. Sherwin De Vera, meanwhile, was also tagged as terrorist and “kotong Lord ng Ilocos”. These posts are circulated by accounts and pages on Facebook believed to be operated by State agents.

October 13, 2018: Lolita Muya, trustee of the Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC), was tailed by an RS 125 XRM type motorcycle while she was leaving from a meeting in Davao City. She was onboard the school’s vehicle when they noticed they were being tailed. A similar tailing incident was reported by the victim on October 8.

October 13, 2018: Peasant advocates Yolanda Diamsay, 46, Eulalia Ladesma, 44, Edzel Emocling, 23, and Rachel Galario, 20, were illegally arrested by combined elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the 7th IBPA, and the Nueva Ecija police. They were charged with trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Emocling has posted bail but Ladesma and Diamsay remain in the custody of the CIDG in Cabanatuan. Eulalia Ladesma, along with Diamsay, was mauled and beaten. Ladesma was kicked several times to force her to admit to being “Ka Mariz”.

October 15, 2018: Adelberto Silva, 71, a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), was arrested with labor union organizer Ireneo Atadero, 55, agriculturist and organic farmer Ediesel Legaspi, 60, GWP consultant Hedda Calderon, 63, and driver Julio Lusania, 53, in Sta. Cruz, Laguna by combined elements of the CIDG, 2nd Infantry Division – 1st IBPA, and the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP). Trumped-up criminal charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives were filed by the military and the police against the victims, after evidence were planted in their belongings. All five are now facing the non-bailable offense of illegal possession of explosives

October 18, 2018: Joey Torres, regional peasant organizer of Bayan Muna, and Anakpawis member Cesar Carreon were reported to be missing.

October 20, 2018: Nine farm workers were massacred at Sagay City, Negros Occidental, while working on a collective food growing project or ‘bungkalan’, a project of the National Federation of Sugar Workers. The union called for a serious investigation of the role of the private army of the Marañon landlord family – composed of the military sponsored Special Civilian Auxiliary Army (SCAA) in the massacre.

October 28, 2018: The Philippines National Police arrested NFSW organisers Rene Manlangit and Rogelio Arquillo, on false multiple murder charges for the Sagay 9 massacre.

October 31, 2018: Dannyboy Bautista, aged 31, and an active member of the striking union NAMASUFA-NAFLU-KMU was shot four times by two men at the market place in the Compostela Public Market. The father of two died on the spot.

We call on you and your government to:

  1. Conduct an immediate investigation of the reported incidents to be conducted by an independent body;
  2. Stop the labeling of members and leaders of progressive people’s organizations and activists as “terrorists” both online and offline. Stop the threats, intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders;
  3. Immediately abolish the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA), a joint committee created by the police and the military that files trumped-up charges against activists and rights defenders. This agency further legitimizes and systematizes the political persecution and illegal arrest and detention of rights defenders and activists;
  4. End your counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan which encourages State security forces to threaten, harass, intimidate and kill civilian political activists, farmer adn worker and community leaders;
  5. Adhere to, respect and implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and all major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory.



Peter Murphy

Chairperson, Global Council

International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines


Cc:          Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

Ret. Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana, Secretary, Department of National Defense

Mr. Menardo Guevarra, Secretary, Department of Justice

Mr. Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights

Mr Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations



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