Attached below is a joint statement by the 𝗪𝗼𝗿𝗹𝗱 𝗢𝗿𝗴𝗮𝗻𝗶𝘇𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗔𝗴𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘀𝘁 𝗧𝗼𝗿𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲 (𝗢𝗠𝗖𝗧) on the ongoing criminalization of ten human rights defenders and members of Karapatan, GABRIELA and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), to which the 𝗜𝗻𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗖𝗼𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗛𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝗥𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗣𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗶𝗽𝗽𝗶𝗻𝗲𝘀 (𝗜𝗖𝗛𝗥𝗣) is a signatory.

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We, the undersigned organisations, express our utmost concern over the ongoing criminalization of ten human rights defenders and members of Karapatan, GABRIELA and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in retaliation for their legitimate human rights work.

𝗘𝗹𝗶𝘀𝗮 𝗧𝗶𝘁𝗮 𝗟𝘂𝗯𝗶, Karapatan Chairperson; 𝗖𝗿𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗮 𝗣𝗮𝗹𝗮𝗯𝗮𝘆, Karapatan Secretary General; 𝗥𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗼 𝗖𝗹𝗮𝗺𝗼𝗿, Karapatan Deputy Secretary General; 𝗚𝗮𝗯𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗹𝗮 𝗞𝗿𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗮 𝗗𝗮𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗮, Karapatan Treasurer; 𝗘𝗱𝗶𝘁𝗮 𝗕𝘂𝗿𝗴𝗼𝘀; 𝗪𝗶𝗹𝗳𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗼 𝗥𝘂𝗮𝘇𝗼𝗹, and 𝗝𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝗠𝗮𝗿𝗶 𝗖𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘂𝗲𝗻𝗴, Karapatan National Council members; 𝗚𝗲𝗿𝘁𝗿𝘂𝗱𝗲𝘀 𝗥𝗮𝗻𝗷𝗼 𝗟𝗶𝗯𝗮𝗻𝗴, Gabriela Chairperson; 𝗝𝗼𝗮𝗻 𝗠𝗮𝘆 𝗦𝗮𝗹𝘃𝗮𝗱𝗼𝗿, Gabriela Secretary General; and 𝗦𝗿. 𝗘𝗹𝗲𝗻𝗶𝘁𝗮 𝗕𝗲𝗹𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗼, RMP member, are facing trial before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 37 on malicious and trumped-up charge of “perjury” in retaliation for their actions seeking legal protection for human rights defenders. The week of January 2, 2023 the verdict will be handed down. If convicted, they could face up to four months or up to more than two years of imprisonment.

On May 6, 2019, due to the alarming increase in violence against human rights defenders in the Philippines, the above-mentioned human rights defenders from Karapatan, Gabriela, and the RMP filed a petition for the writ of amparo (protection order) and habeas data (access to information) before the Supreme Court, seeking protection against threats, attacks, and harassment by government officials. However, the Philippine Court of Appeals denied their petition in June 2019.

Following the rejection of the petition, the authorities responded with retaliatory measures against the 10 human rights defenders. On July 2, 2019, then-National Security Adviser General Hermogenes Esperon, who was named in the petition, lodged a complaint alleging that the 10 defendants had committed “perjury” by stating that the RMP was a registered non-governmental organisation at the Securities and Exchange Commission in the petition they filed before the Supreme Court. While the perjury complaint was initially dismissed for “lack of probable cause and/or insufficiency of evidence”, in February 2020, the Quezon City prosecutor sustained a motion for reconsideration filed by the National Security Adviser and found probable cause to charge the 10 human rights defenders with “perjury”. The charges against the 10 human rights defenders have been widely condemned by regional and global civil society organisations as well as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

Since the “perjury” charges were filed, the Department of Justice has charged at least 16 people, including nuns, linked to the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines with financing terrorism under Section 8(ii) of Republic Act 10168 or anti-terrorism financing act.

In the Philippines, human rights defenders continue to face attacks, killings, judicial harassment, arbitrary detention and stigmatisation campaigns by State agents, proxies, supporters and enablers. Since June 2016, when President Duterte took power, a climate of impunity for attacks against human rights defenders worsened. The killings of defenders have rarely been investigated, which increases the vulnerability of those who remain active, while undermining the human rights community’s confidence in the justice system. In addition, the Anti-Terrorism Act, which was passed in July 2020, further compounded the precarious situation for human rights defenders by legally formalising the practice of “red-tagging” defenders with overly broad and vague definitions of terrorism. The grave human rights situation in the Philippines including the ongoing onslaught facing human rights defenders has resulted in expressions of grave concern from the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in June 2020 and more recently a number of Members of the European Parliament. Similarly, in April 2020, 9 UN human rights experts expressed their concern regarding the killings, threats, detentions and criminalization of human rights defenders in the Philippines. Both the OHCHR and the UN human rights experts recommended establishing an international, independent investigation of human rights violations in the Philippines.

We call on the new President of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., to distance himself from the previous administration, and firmly commit to respecting the right to defend human rights. President Marcos Jr. should cease the threats and attacks against rights defenders and ensure the protection of their rights, including the rights to life, due process, freedom of expression, and freedom of peaceful assembly. We urge the authorities to put an immediate end to the judicial harassment against Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Edita Burgos, Wilfredo Ruazol, Jose Mari Callueng, Gertrudes Ranjo Libang, Joan May Salvador, and Sr. Elenita Belardo. Similarly, we call on the authorities to rescind the Anti-Terrorism Act and adopt the Human Rights Defenders Protection Bill.

We are inspired by the work, courage and commitment of these human rights defenders, and stand in solidarity with all of them.

𝗦𝗶𝗴𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗲𝘀:

1. ACAT – Germany

2. Action Solidarité Tiers Monde (ASTM) – Luxembourg

3. ALTSEAN – Burma

4. Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN)

5. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

6. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)

7. Associació Catalana per la Pau – Catalonia/Spain

8. AWID – International

9. Banglar Manabadhikar Surakhsa Mancha (MASUM) – India

10. Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) – International

11. Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights – Canada

12. Capital Punishment Justice Project – Australia

13. Centre for Philippine Concerns – Canada

14. Changement Social Bénin – Benin

15. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH) – Mexico

16. CIVICUS – International

17. Environmental Defender Law Center – United States

18. ESCR-Net – International Network for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – International

19. Federal Association of Vietnamese Refugees in the Federal Republic of Germany

20. Filipino Women’s Organization in Quebec (PINAY) – Canada

21. Front Line Defenders – International

22. Fundación Promoción Humana – Argentina

23. Greek Helsinki Monitor – Greece

24. Human Rights Defenders Alert (HRDA) – India

25. Human Rights First – International

26. Human Rights Watch – International

27. IBON International

28. International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) – International

29. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

30. International League of People’s Struggle – Canada

31. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) – International

32. Judicial Reform Foundation – Taiwan

33. KAIROS Canada

34. La Voix des Sans Voix pour les Droits de l’Homme (VSV) – Democratic Republic of the Congo

35. Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada

36. Lok Shakti Abhiyan – India

37. London Mining Network – United Kingdom

38. Malaya Movement – Canada

39. Malaya Movement – United States

40. Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders (IM-Defensoras)

41. Migrante – Canada

42. Narasha Community Development Group – Kenya

43. National Autonomous Union of Public Administration Staff (SNAPAP) – Algeria

44. National Fisheries Solidarity Movement – Sri Lanka

45. National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter – United States

46. Netherlands Philippines Solidarity Movement – Netherlands

47. Odhikar – Bangladesh

48. ONG Construisons Ensemble le Monde – Democratic Republic of the Congo

49. Project South – United States

50. Public Service Alliance of Canada – Alliance de la Fonction publique du Canada – Canada

51. Rural People’s Sangam – India

52. Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network – International

53. SOHRAM-CASRA – Turkey

54. Synergie des femmes pour les victimes des violences sexuelles (SFVS) – Democratic Republic of the Congo

55. Tapol – Indonesia

56. The Open University – United Kingdom

57. The Uplands Center – United States

58. United Church of Canada – Canada

59. Universidad Nacional José Faustino Sánchez Carrión – Huacho – Peru

60. Viva Salud – Belgium

61. Women of Diverse Origins – Canada

62. Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) – International

63. Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition

64. World Organisation Against Torture, in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

𝗜𝗻𝗱𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹𝘀:

1. Bronwyn Dudley

2. Emile Kinley-Gauthier

3. Florfina Marcelino