Press Release
November 22, 2023

“The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) welcomes the UN Special Rapporteur Ian Fry’s recommendation to the Philippine government to close down its anti-communist task force, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). We strongly endorse his call to stop the attacks against environment defenders including civil society and Indigenous Peoples’ organizations,” said Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson, today.

“ICHRP strenuously denounces former police chief, Senator Ronald dela Rosa, and retired general Eduardo Año, the National Security Adviser, for their outright rejection of Special Rapporteur Fry’s call to shut down NTF-ELCAC. NTF-ELCAC was exposed for the abduction and psychological torture of environmental defenders Ms Jonila Castro and Ms Jhed Tamano at Bataan province during September,” said Murphy. “We condemn the continuing persecution of Ms Castro and Ms Tamano by NTF-ELCAC.

“ICHRP welcomes the long overdue agreement by the Marcos Jr administration to allow UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteurs to visit the Philippines, after six years of blocking by former President Rodrigo Duterte,” said Murphy.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Climate Change & Human Rights shared his initial findings in a media conference on November 15 following his official 10-day visit in the Philippines, when he visited Metro Manila, Leyte and Iloilo. His meetings included Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Maria Antonia Loyzaga, and Justice Secretary Jesus C Remulla.

The Special Rapporteur’s other recommendation included:

  1. End government impunity for violation of human rights;
  2. Repeal the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL);
  3. Implement the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women General Recommendations 39;
  4. Implement major reforms to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples; and
  5. Enact the Human Rights Defenders Bill.

“ICHRP welcomes these interim recommendations and looks forward to the full report from Mr Fry in June 2024,” said Mr Murphy. “The Special Rapporteur has grasped the severity of the climate crisis for the Philippines and the even deeper crisis of harassment, vilification, kidnapping and murder of environmental defenders which ICHRP has been highlighting for many years now.

“ICHRP and our partners in the Philippines, Karapatan Alliance for Human Rights, EcuVoice, and the National Union of Peoples Lawyers, have long been calling for the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC,” said Mr Murphy. “The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples has been used to override indigenous communities when they defend their ancestral domains, and has even denigrated their cultures, on behalf of logging, mining and plantation project investors.”

ICHRP strongly supports the call from the Indigenous Peoples Movement Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) for all governments to respond to Special Rapporteur Fry’s findings which highlight the alarming trend of criminalization, terrorist-tagging and attacks against Indigenous Peoples worldwide. “We support IPMSDL’s demand that world leaders take serious action to uphold Indigenous Peoples’ right to defend their right to land, waters, resources and territories. Their exercise of their right to self-determination is not a criminal nor a terrorist act but ultimately a key climate solution,” concluded Mr Murphy.

Further comment: Peter Murphy, Chairperson, ICHRP Global Council +61 418 312 301