December 6, 2017
President Rodriqo R. Duterte
1000 Jose P Laurel Sr, San Miguel,
Manila, Metro Manila
Dear President Duterte:
As human rights defenders in the Philippines become under increasing attack, we, the International Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-Canada), are compelled to express our deep concern regarding your most recent orders to crackdown on legal and progressive organizations in the Philippines. We add our voices to the chorus of organizations and activists in the Philippines and from around the world who are calling for your government to resume the peace negotiations and put a stop to the harassment and killings of those who are vocal about ongoing human rights violations and the imposition of martial law in Mindanao.
Recent declarations that you will “kill human rights defenders” who criticize the conduct of your drug war which has resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings in mostly urban poor communities, is beyond comprehension. According to numerous sources throughout the country, several human rights defenders (HRDs) have subsequently received direct threats, have been harassed, or murdered by or on behalf of the Philippine military. These are among the most recent examples that have been brought to our attention:
- Legal and progressive organizations Karapatan, Piston and the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) were targeted as “communist front organizations” and its leaders and members have been threatened with or have been arrested.
- On October 25, 2017, paralegal Edwin Pura, 49, was gunned down by two armed men in Gubat, Sorsogon province. Pura was a paralegal staff of Atty. Ron Ely Espinosa of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), a group of human rights lawyers.
- On the evening of November 20, nine members of the Karapatan-led quick reaction mission, all of them peasants, in Nasugbu, Batangas province were illegally arrested by the police and the Philippine Air Force. The team of at least 30 members were about to go to communities affected by the recent military operations when when these arrests took place.
- On November 28, 2017, Karapatan Negros Oriental coordinator Elisa Badayos and peasant leader Eleuterio Moises were shot and killed by unnamed men, while on a fact-finding mission in Bayawan, Negros Oriental.
- On November 30, 2017, “Wanted” posters bearing the pictures and names of leaders of progressive organizations in Davao, including Karapatan’s Hanimay Suazo and Bayan’s Sheena Duazo, were once again being circulated. The leaders, collectively known as “Haran 15” were charged with trumped-up charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
- On December 4, at around 8pm,Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez, former parish priest in Guimba and currently coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Central Luzon, was shot while driving his vehicle at San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija On December 3, 2017, Pastor Lovelito Quiñones, 57, a pastor of Kings Glory Ministry, a resident of Sitio Anapla, Brgy. Don Pedro, Mansalay, was shot by elements of the Regional Mobile Group (RMG) in Sitio Anapla, Brgy. Din Pedro, Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro.
These recent actions and declarations by your government, coupled with the many other incidents of killings and arrests of peasants, Moro indigenous peoples and development workers is reminiscent of the pattern of vicious attacks against human rights defenders during the martial law period of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. We are appalled as these attacks are becoming more brazen, even targeting fact-finding, quick reaction and humanitarian missions, further constricting the remaining spaces for independent investigations by human rights groups on violations by state forces.
We are appealing to you to stop the attacks against human rights defenders in the Philippines, to rescind all policies and pronouncements that endanger the lives and security of these human rights defenders and vulnerable communities, and to ensure a safe and enabling environment for HRDs.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Government of Canada;
NDP Critic, Foreign Affairs;
Conservative Critic, Foreign Affairs;
Philippine Embassy in Canada;
Embassy of Canada in the Philippines;
Hon. Jesus Dureza
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process;
Ret. Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana
Secretary, Department of National Defense;
Hon. Vitaliano Aguirre
Secretary, Department of Justice;
Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights,
*The International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) is a global network of organizations outside the Philippines who are concerned about human rights and committed to work for a just and lasting peace in the Philippines.