April 12, 2023
“The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) condemns the unlawful arrest of student leaders Gabriel Magtibay, chairperson of the Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND UP), and Joanne Pagkaliwangan of the Far Eastern University during a lightning rally in front of the United States Embassy in Manila in the early morning of April 11,” said Peter Murphy, ICHRP Global Council Chairperson.
Four paralegals who went to Manila City Police Station 5 to assist the arrested students were also nabbed by the police. As of this writing, the four paralegals were released but the two students are still detained at the Manila Police District Headquarters and charged with Illegal Assembly, Vandalism, and Resisting Arrest.
“The arrest of student activists participating in a peaceful demonstration clearly violates their right to freedom of assembly. This is stipulated in international human rights covenants ratified by the Philippines, such as Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said Peter Murphy.
The demonstration was held to protest the 2023 Balikatan Exercises between an estimated 17,000 US Army troops and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) soldiers from April 11 to April 28, the biggest since its inception in 1991. This huge military event follows the construction of multiple US military bases in key locations in the country including Cagayan Valley and Southern Tagalog through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The joint military exercise is widely seen as a provocative act by the US against China, as it includes military exercises planned with other countries in the First Island Chain – Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.
“The protest action was justified as it defends the Philippines’ right to national sovereignty, a basic human right. Participating in the Balikatan Exercises will only drag the Philippines into the worsening US-China tensions and will likely result in more violations of the rights of the Filipino people,” concluded Murphy.
Further comment: Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson, +61418312301