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    ICHRP Lauds ICC Decision to Pursue Investigation of Duterte’s Crimes Against Humanity

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    Press Release

    January 28, 2023

    On 26 January 2023, the International Criminal Court (“ICC” or “Court”) announced that it had granted the Prosecutor’s request to resume investigation into the Situation of the Republic of the Philippines (“the Philippines”). The ICC indicated that “following a careful analysis of the materials provided by the Philippines, the Chamber is not satisfied that the Philippines is undertaking relevant investigations that would warrant a deferral of the Court’s investigations”.

    Having examined the submissions and materials of the Philippine Government, and of the ICC Prosecutor, as well as the victims’ observations, the Chamber concluded that the various domestic initiatives and proceedings, assessed collectively, do not amount to tangible, concrete and progressive investigative steps in a way that would sufficiently mirror the Court’s investigation. 

    This conclusion of the ICC mirrors the earlier findings of Investigate PH Commission of Inquiry which found that domestic measures were effectively not functioning, and there was no evidence to support the Philippine government’s contention that victims could find justice in the Philippine courts. The judicial system itself was in fact being wielded as an instrument in the Philippine government’s campaign of state terror. 

    The ICC decision to continue the pursuit of justice lays bare the Marcos Administration’s culpability in shielding the Duterte regime’s policies of impunity and state terror that killed perhaps 30,000 or more, and victimized Filipinos for six long years. “We are extremely appreciative of the decision of the ICC,” said Peter Murphy, Chairperson of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP). “It offers a mechanism for victims to continue their pursuit of justice against the Duterte Regime’s brutal war on drugs, on dissent and on the Moro and all Indigenous Peoples. Justice will still be served despite the Marcos administration’s decision to keep the Philippines outside the jurisdiction of the ICC and cover-up the crimes against humanity committed by the police and the military under Duterte”.

    The new Marcos-Duterte administration functions simply as a continuation of its brutal predecessor. ICHRP believes the prosecution by the ICC may not stop the Marcos-Duterte government from sheltering the perpetrators from prosecution or prevent such crimes from continuing to occur, but it can provide some constraint and a measure of justice to the victims.   

    ICHRP congratulates the ICC for cutting through the fog of lies and false claims laid out by the Marcos-Duterte government that the Philippine judicial system is functioning and can address any concerns about the President, the regime and the military’s roles in these gross violations of human rights and crimes against humanity.

    In November 2022 Justice Secretary Jesus Remulla reported to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review that over 17,000 cases of drug killings involving police officers had been reviewed, resulting in a small number of disciplinary actions. “There is no way that this level of inquiry – most unlikely to be genuine – amounts to an investigation of the crime against humanity of murder which the ICC was investigating,” said Murphy.

    “ICHRP has full confidence in the impartiality of the ICC. We urge the ICC to vigorously pursue the full investigation of the previous Duterte administration for these crimes against humanity so that, finally, justice may be served and impunity ended,” Murphy said.

    Murphy, an Australian-based human rights advocate, led Investigate PH, a recent three-part investigation by an international commission on the extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests, abductions and disappearances in the Philippines since July 1, 2016, when President Duterte came into power. ###

    For comment: Peter Murphy, Chairperson, ICHRP Global Council +61 418 312 301 [email protected]


    The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines is a global network of organizations, concerned about the human rights situation in the Philippines and committed to campaigning for just and lasting peace in the country.

    ICHRP Urges International Labor Organization (ILO) to Further Probe Violations of Workers’ Rights in the Philippines

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    Statement

    January 26, 2023

    The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) urges the International Labor Organization (ILO) to probe further the violations of labor rights of workers in the Philippines through its High Level Tripartite Mission (HLTM). The ongoing Mission started on January 23 in the Philippines and will conclude on January 27.

    “The ongoing Mission of the ILO is in line with one of INVESTIGATE PH’s key recommendations in all its three reports submitted to the UN OCHR, the ICC and the ILO. It is high time that the Philippine government is made accountable for its gross violations of workers’ rights, which heightened during President Duterte’s term,” said Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson.

    Formalized in June 1948, the ILO Convention Nos. 87 and 98 unequivocally declares the “freedom of association and right to organize” of all workers in the world, which the Philippines ratified in 1953. These rights are also stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights where the Philippine government is a party to these conventions.

    Despite having it ratified in 1953, the Philippines has a poor record of implementing the ILO Convention No. 87. Under President Duterte’s administration alone, 56 labor leaders and organizers were killed, while hundreds were victims of various cases of red-tagging, harassment, union-busting, and arrests due to trumped-up charges. Among these incidents is the Bloody Sunday Massacre on March 7, 2021, which killed 9 activists in Southern Tagalog. One of the victims was labor leader Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion, who was then in the office of Cavite Workers’ Assistance Center, Inc. (WAC) when state armed forces forcibly entered the office, tortured and killed him. The Department of Justice in a Resolution recently dismissed the criminal complaint filed by Asuncion’s wife against Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel for “insufficiency of evidence”, concluding that there is no probable cause to prosecute them for the killing of Manny Asuncion. This further exacerbates the climate of impunity and the continued delay in giving justice for victims of state violence.

    “Equally alarming is the practice of the Philippine government in repressing the right of workers to organize and form trade unions. The creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has aggravated the disrespect of this right by the government,” added Murphy. They red-tag, threaten, file trumped-up charges, arrest and detain, and kill union leaders and organizers. The Alliance for Industrial Peace Program formerly known as Joint Industrial Peace Concerns Office (JIPCO) sees workers’ collective action as ‘terrorism’ and makes organizing of workers into trade unions very difficult especially in export processing zone areas. 

    The workers’ situation has not improved since July 2022 under Marcos Jr. The Minimum Wage in the National Capital Region (NCR) remains at a measly P570 (US$10.44) per day, while other provinces like Bicol have it significantly lower at P335 (US$6.14) per day. Meanwhile, the real wage of workers in NCR is at P488 (US$8.94) per day, a far cry from the family living wage of P1,117 (US$20.47) per day, based on August 2022 data. Coupled with the fast-rising inflation and the continued crackdown of labor rights in the country, the problems faced by Filipino workers seem to have no end in sight.

    As the ILO Mission concludes on January 27, ICHRP implores the ILO to urgently come up with the necessary recommendations to put a stop to the killings and repression of workers in the Philippines. “ICHRP reiterates its call to have the Philippine government abide by international labor laws and to be held accountable for its blatant disregard and violations of workers rights,” concluded Murphy.

    Further comment: Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson, +61418312301

    [email protected]

    ICHRP Statement on the 36th Anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre

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    January 22, 2023

    “The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) today marks the 36th anniversary of the Mendiola massacre, a brutal attack by state forces against peasant farmers on January 22, 1987,” said Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson.

    “In the context of the ongoing struggle for land reform under the administration of Corazon Aquino, over ten thousand farmers joined protests outside of the Department  of Agrarian Reform and demanded action on the fair distribution of land to all. They then marched toward Malacanang Palace, and thirteen were killed when soldiers opened fired at the Mendiola Bridge: Danilo Arjona, Leopoldo Alonzo, Adelfa Aribe, Dionisio Bautista, Roberto Caylao, Vicente Campomanes, Ronilo Dumanico, Dante Evangelio, Angelito Gutierrez, Rodrigo Grampan, Bernabe Laquindanum, Sonny Boy Perez, and Roberto Yumul.

    “Today, more than three decades after this horrific injustice, the peasants’ demand for land reform still goes unanswered,” Murphy continued. “Millions of farmers across the Philippines remain landless, and are forced to pay exorbitant land rents to produce. The military continues to threaten and kill peasants  who defend their right to till the lands and struggle for their basic rights – peasant communities even face shelling and bombing under the guise of ‘counterinsurgency operations’.

    “ICHRP amplifies the call for genuine land reform and respect for the rights of the farmer across the Philippines. We also call on the international community to support this struggle by raising political or material support for peasant organizations in the Philippines, such as the Kilusang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas. The anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre reminds us that the struggle for justice is as important as ever.”

    ICHRP Statement on the Passing of Jose Maria Sison

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    Statement

    December 23, 2022

    The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) joins the international community in grieving the sudden and unexpected passing of Jose Maria “Ka Joma” Sison. He died at the age of 83 last December 16 after being confined for two weeks in a hospital in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

    He was the founding Chairperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the Chief Political Consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Peace Negotiating Panel, and Emeritus Chair of the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS), which he also helped found in 2001.

    “Sison was a patriot and a staunch fighter for the comprehensive individual and collective human rights of the Filipino people for over 60 years,” said ICHRP chairperson Peter Murphy. 

    “His advocacy of armed struggle as a legitimate and vital part of the Filipino liberation struggle attracted massive retaliation from the US government and its Filipino subordinates. But all peoples have the right to rebel against tyranny, as expressed in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ka Joma insisted that the armed struggle in the Philippines be conducted lawfully,” said Murphy.

    While in exile in the Netherlands, Sison was able to play a key role in the decades-long peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Through his active participation with the NDFP panel, three major agreements between the two parties were signed — the The Hague Joint Declaration, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), and the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). As well, Ka Joma contributed to the draft Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), which was initiated by both negotiating panels in 2017, but blocked by President Duterte.

    “The draft CASER represents a decisive step forward in addressing the roots of social conflict in the Philippines,” said Murphy.

    These agreements are monumental contributions to the struggle for the Filipino people’s rights. The Hague Joint Declaration recognized that the NDFP and GRP are equals in the peace talks, which are aimed at resolving the armed conflict with a just and lasting peace. It set out four substantive agenda for the negotiations — CARHRIHL, social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces. 

    CARHRIHL applies the United Nations international human rights conventions and International Humanitarian Law to ensure the protection and respect of the human rights of civilians and of forces of both parties who are rendered hors de combat while directly participating in the armed conflict. The draft CASER contains specific initiatives to solve the poverty, exploitation and oppression that is the root of the armed conflict in the country, such as genuine land reform, rural development, and national industrialization.

    “ICHRP honors Ka Joma’s legacy and contributions to the struggle for self-determination and development of the Filipino people. We urge the international community and international institutions to stand with the victims of human rights violations and those who struggle for democracy and human rights in the Philippines,” concluded Peter Murphy.

    ICHRP Statement for International Human Rights Day

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    Defend Human Rights!
    End State Terror!
    Bring Justice for the Victims!

    Statement

    December 10, 2022

    The Philippines has its new President Marcos but remains a killing ground for
    political dissidents, community organizers, indigenous people, rights
    advocates, and alleged drug suspects. The machinery of terror set up by the
    Duterte Regime under its “shoot-to-kill” and arbitrary arrest policies remains
    firmly in place. As we mark International Human Rights Day, ICHRP
    denounces the ongoing violations of political, social and economic rights and
    attacks on freedom of speech and the press that continue under the Marcos
    Government.

    At least 10 peace consultants have been murdered by the Philippine
    government since it withdrew from the peace process with the National
    Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in 2017. Most recently, NDFP
    peace consultant Erickson Acosta and peasant organizer Joseph Jimenez
    were detained and then executed in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, on
    November 30. The two were captured by elements of the 94th and 47th
    Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army. The military attempted to cover up
    the murder by projecting Acosta as an armed combatant at the time of his
    death. Locals said no firefight nor encounter had occurred. Another NDFP
    peace consultant Pedro Codaste was killed on January 21, 2022, by the
    Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). This case also involved allegations of
    abduction and torture by the security forces. The execution of prisoners by the
    AFP represents a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law.
    Negros has been the scene of ongoing state violence over the past several
    months, with reports of widespread aerial bombing of civilians in early October
    2022, most notably in Himamaylan City in Negros Occidental. Bombing
    incidents lasting for 20 minutes were reported as well in Sitio Cunalom and
    parts of Casipungan, Cambulan, Pangi and Igaw, all of Barangay Carabalan.
    In the same areas residents were forced to flee their homes, with up to 2,500
    persons heading for evacuation centers on October 6, after the AFP brought

    in artillery and conducted indiscriminate firing on the communities.
    Indiscriminate aerial bombardment and artillery strikes on communities by the
    AFP represents a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law.
    The media remains under attack from the Marcos government. Cyber Libel
    Laws have been used in attempts to both silence and close down
    independent media and have produced a litany of charges against Nobel
    Peace Prize winning journalist Maria Ressa. Journalists continue to be killed
    by state actors under the Marcos government, including the recent death of
    on-air personality Percy Lapid, killed by unidentified gunman allegedly under
    the direction of the head of the Department of Corrections. The Philippines
    remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist.

    The War on Drugs also continues under the Marcos government, despite
    protestations to the contrary. The Marcos government attended the 41st
    Universal Periodic Review of the Philippines at the UN Human Rights Council
    in Geneva on November 14, 2022. The new government promised “real
    justice in real time”, claiming they are taking concrete measures to correct the
    wrongs of the Duterte government. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    Despite the change of government, all the machinery and instruments of state
    terror continue to function. Police anti-drug operations continue to extra-
    judicially target poor people, with impunity. Recent data from the Third World
    Studies Center in Manila indicates there have been 127 drug killings by
    police between Marcos’ inauguration on July 1st and November 7, 2022 – the
    Duterte policy rolling on. The Anti-Terrorism Act with its broad sweeping
    powers and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict
    (NTF-ELCAC), along with the Philippine National Police and the AFP,
    continue to operate as mechanisms to crush dissent and to violate the civil
    and political rights of citizens. No one is spared.

    The Marcos government claims it is addressing the drug war killings, and
    claim to have investigated 17,000 police officers and filed 15 charges in the
    first six months. On the one hand, this suggests that there are 17,000 police
    involved in 6,600 officially-acknowledged drug war killings. And on the other
    hand, at this rate it will take the Philippine government approximately 1000
    years to provide justice to the actual 30,000 odd victims of the Drug War. This
    would be an example of Justice Secretary Remulla’s “real justice in real time”!
    Clearly, domestic remedies have failed, as elements of the judiciary are
    complicit in the war on dissent, using the bench to support military and police
    attacks on dissenters by providing broad powers though warrants of arrest
    that frequently ended in the summary deaths of the accused. The courts are
    just one element in the entire machinery of the state which has been
    weaponized in the fascist whole-of-nation approach to target regime
    opponents.

    In this context we urge the international community and international
    institutions to stand with the victims and those who struggle for democracy
    and human rights in the Philippines. We call for continued pressure through
    international mechanisms and international solidarity to push the Philippine
    government to action. To this end, we call for:

    1. Pressure on the UNHRC to conduct an independent investigation of
      the drug war killings and other political killings as called for in the June
      2020 report of former UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle
      Bachelet.
    2. The Philippine government to rejoin the International Criminal Court
      (ICC) and allow it to conduct investigations in the Philippines related to
      the Crime Against Humanity of murder and violations of International
      Humanitarian Law by the Duterte government.
    3. Pressure the Philippine government to stop red tagging – executive
      designation of individuals and organizations as terrorists, such as
      NDFP Peace Negotiator Luis Jalandoni in the Netherlands, and the
      Rural Missionaries of the Philippines.
    4. The Marcos government to cease all actions that undermine the re-
      commencement of the peace talks with the NDFP.
    5. Suspension of all international aid to the Armed Forces of the
      Philippines, Philippine National Police, and counter-terrorism programs
      which would place weapons in the hands of those committing these
      grave human rights violations.
    6. National governments to introduce legislation to sanction key members
      of the Duterte government for their role in the well documented mass
      killings and the associated crimes against humanity.
    7. The Philippine Government to release all political prisoners.
      Further we urge the International Criminal Court to pursue its case against
      former President Duterte and his senior officials, to follow the evidence and
      give voice to the victims.

      Further comment: Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson, +61418312301
      [email protected]