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    Philippine Police Chief Denies Cover-Up, Despite Growing Evidence

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    July 7th, 2021

    In the wake of Investigate PH’s Second Report yesterday, Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, the PNP chief, asserted there is no policy to cover up police wrongdoings and in cases of anti-drug operation killings. His denials fly in the face of the evidence documented by the Independent International Commission of Investigation (Investigate PH*).

    Investigate PH stands by its statement “that the Philippine National Police (PNP) routinely covers up the circumstances surrounding killings in ‘anti-drug operations’, intimidates potential witnesses, and obstructs investigations by victims’ families, civil society and even by the Commission on Human Rights”.

    The Independent Commission lead by senior civil society luminaries found that police had systematically engaged in extra judicial killings of thousands of alleged drug suspects and hundreds of political dissidents and had covered-up, obfuscated and blatantly falsified the nature and circumstances of these deaths.  Almost universally the police made claims that suspects had resisted, despite testimony from eye witnesses and forensic experts that suspects showed wounds of a defensive nature, were shot with their hands in the air or worse executed while handcuffed. 

    Photographs from journalist Vincent Go show scenes which suggest victims had not fired even one shot. His photographs of dead bodies show signs of handcuffs or zip ties, suggesting victims were not resisting when shot dead. In some cases, the bodies still had zip ties, which the police did not bother to remove after death.

    Further, it is hard to take General Eleazar’s denials seriously when the President’s own words point to the culpability of the police in these killings. 

    On September 27, 2018, President Duterte gave a speech at the Presidential Palace (Malacañang) before Career Service Officers, in which he acknowledged that he was responsible for the extrajudicial killings in anti-drug operations.

    “Ako? Sabi ko nga sa military, anong kasalanan ko? Nagnakaw ba ako diyan ni piso? Sige daw. Did I prosecute somebody na ipinakulong ko? Ang kasalanan ko lang ‘yung mga extra-judicial killing. 

    [“Me? I told the military, what are my sins/crimes? Did I steal even a single Peso? Tell me. Did I prosecute somebody which I ordered imprisoned? My only crime/sin are extra judicial killings.”] [Our translation]

    The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) expects the International Criminal Court to take the evidence presented  to use in the ultimate prosecution of senior Philippine officials for their roles in crimes against humanity.  

    * Investigate PH is the popular name of the Independent International Commission of Investigation into Human Rights Violations in the Philippines, which is led by ‘High Commissioners’ who are prominent personalities of the international community. Its recent report is the second in a series of three reports, and builds on the findings of the first report launched in March 2021, which picked up from and further substantiated the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights’ June 2020 report on the Philippine human rights situation. 

    ICHRP calls for Protest Action on July 10, on the Release of July 6 Damning Civil Society Report on Human Rights in the Philippines

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    Duterte’s reign of state terror and brutality documented in a damning second report of the Human Rights situation in the Philippines 

    No amount of denials and lies by the regime can whitewash the crimes exposed by the work of Investigate PH. –Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson

    ICHRP congratulates Investigate PH’s release of its detailed, factual and well documented second report into the Human Rights situation in the Philippines.  Investigate PH is an International Commission of Inquiry representing a broad range of civil society leaders and organizations that have taken up the challenge of conducting an independent investigation into the Human Rights situation in the Philippines. The Report adds to the mounting body of evidence of the culpability of the Duterte Regime as a serial violator of basic human rights. 

    The release of the second report comes just three weeks after the International Criminal Court opened an investigation of crimes against humanity against the Duterte Regime.  The report details the depravity of the Duterte government’s abuses using an investigation of three areas of conflict occurring across the Philippines 1) The War on Drugs, effectively a war on poor people, 2) the War on the Moro People, a colonial war being fought against Islamic Peoples of the Philippines, and 3) the War on Dissent, effectively implementation of a counter-insurgency strategy waged by the state against civil society and non-combatants, fundamentally a war against political opposition and dissident voices. 

    The second report provides further evidence of ongoing gross violations of rights that were highlighted in the first report.  The second report highlights three main areas of concern:

    Lack of redress persists for abuses by State agents, and the Philippine National Police (PNP) continue to obstruct justice. Police routinely coverup the circumstances of killings in anti-drug operations, intimidate families and potential witnesses, and obstruct the review of most killings by the Department of Justice.

    The armed forces have become more emboldened in killing dissenters. Police and soldiers are now executing political dissenters in a manner similar to extrajudicial killings in anti-drug operations. Duterte’s NTF-ELCAC, the July 2020 Anti-Terrorism Act, and increasingly the justice system have not only facilitated these killings, but are institutionalizing repression that broadly harms civil society, from alleged communists to churches to long-standing democratic institutions. These actions erode the very foundation and façade of democracy. 

    Military action in Mindanao is perpetuating violence against and entrenching the marginalization of Moro communities, with steady military aid from the U.S. Military operations in Mindanao, as part of the U.S.-backed “War on Terror,” have failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants, and also caused mass displacement of Moro communities. Government policy neglects the needs of displaced people and undermines Moro communities’ right to self-determination. U.S. military aid, as well as military support from other countries, is abetting human rights violations.

    The report highlights that Philippine security forces are perpetrating extrajudicial killings — and obstructing justice. The hearings produced eye witness accounts of state sanctioned killings conducted by the police and military.  It also produced independent forensic evidence that countered police claims that victims had fought back.  The report demonstrates a complete lack of accountability for the killings in the Drug War.  As of June 2021, the Philippine National Police (PNP) continue to defy Supreme Court directives to hand over case files in the more than 7,000 officially acknowledged drug killings.1

    Equally disturbing is the evidence presented that shows the state killing machine perfected in the War on Poor People is now being turned on human rights defenders and a broad range of political opponents of government policy. In “tokhang”-style raids in recent months, police and military in Negros, Panay, and Southern Tagalog have extrajudicially killed farmer leaders, city councillors, teachers, lawyers, doctors, peasant leaders, human rights defenders, trade unionists, indigenous leaders and urban poor organizers in their own homes or going to or from their work. The justice system supports and participates in the suppression of dissent both by weaponizing the law to facilitate human rights abuses, and by failing to enforce legal protections.

    The report highlights the failure of military operations in Mindanao to distinguished between civilians and combatants. It documented the use of indiscriminate forms of warfare such as mortar fire, artillery fire and aerial bombing on densely populated by civilian areas. The report notes such actions are in breach of International Humanitarian Law. U.S. and other foreign governments who supply weapons, intelligence and training are also in breach of International Humanitarian Law. 

    The second report highlights the judicial system’s role in the institutionalization of impunity, the failure of domestic remedies, the weaponization of the law to violate rights and the persistent culture of impunity that is a hallmark of military rule. 

    ICHRP stresses that the Investigate PH report further highlights the current reality in the Philippines “is one of impunity, mass killings and escalating human rights abuses. The behavior of the Duterte Regime is an affront to the efforts of the UN Human Rights Council and the entire international community.”

    We call on the UN Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court to respond to the evidence presented in the Investigate PH report to support its own investigation to hold the Duterte Government accountable for its crimes against humanity. According to ICHRP chairperson Peter Murphy, “The UN bodies and world should know that Duterte’s actions have led directly to the murder of Filipinos, he’s out for blood”.

    We call on people from around the world to take notice of these crimes against humanity and express their indignation on July 10th. 

    We call for an end to the war on drugs!

    We call for an end to the war on dissent and all associated military operations!

    We call for compensation and the right to return for all Maranaos!

    We call for a suspension of all military aid and equipment to the police and armed forces of the Philippines!

    We call for justice for the victims of these crimes, prosecute the perpetrators! 

    Contact: Peter Murphy +61 418 312 301

    1https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/investigative/duterte-government-rubbish-files-stall-supreme-court-drug-war-case-part-on

    ICHRP Statement on the Death of Jesus Alegre

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    It is with sadness this week that the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) marks the passing of political detainee Jesus Alegre, aged 75. Alegre died on June 13 at the Ospital ng Muntinlupa after being in and out of the hospital with diabetes and other ailments over the past few months. Alegre had spent the last 16 years of his life in the notorious New Bilibid prison in Muntinlupa where the mortality rate among the overcrowded prisoner population is said to be 20% per year.  Alegre, his wife Moreta, and his son Selman were all wrongfully convicted of murder in 2005. 

    The Alegres are a family from Sagay, Negros Occidental, they had seven children.  Before their incarceration, they were simple fisherfolk and did farming on their small landholding when not fishing. The family were members of Pamalakaya, Negros (National Federation of Small Fisherfolk in the Philippines).

    Jesus and Moreta were arrested in April 2005, along with their son Selman. Their imprisonment was a result of a land dispute with a local landlord, Avelino Gaspar, who was encroaching on their small plot of land. The Alegres filed a formal protest to the Bureau of Lands which stopped Gaspar from gaining title to their land, and this caused serious friction between the two.  The dispute lasted over several years and resulted in the death of one of the Alegre sons while trying to protect their land.

    Despite the ongoing harassments and threats from Gaspar, the Alegres refused to leave their land and attempted to fight the landlord through the courts. Unfortunately, one of the landlord’s men was killed by an unidentified individual and the Alegre family were accused of murder and found guilty. The main witness to the presumed killing was Gaspar, the landlord.

    The couple spent four years at the Sagay Prison in Negros Occidental and then transferred to Metro Manila where they were separated.  Jesus Alegre reflected poignantly on their incarceration, “We are made to suffer for sins we did not commit. It’s because we do not have money and power and we just want to live simply tilling our small land so we can live. Where is justice? We lost our son Romeo trying to defend that small piece of land. When he died no one ever seek justice for him. Our family just cried in silence. I know this was their way of getting rid of us in that small piece we were tilling. But his death was not enough. Our whole family had to take on the cudgels of prison life.”  By eliminating the entire Alegre family, the question of land ownership was resolved for Gaspar.

    The Alegres’ conviction and long prison sentence are an example of the failure of the Philippine justice system to provide protection for the poor and oppressed of Negros.  The refusal of the Duterte regime to grant any sort of relief to these aging and sick inmates despite repeated requests during the Covid Pandemic is testament to their barbarity.  ICHRP Global Chairperson Peter Murphy notes: “Jesus Alegre had committed no crime; his imprisonment is a monument to the injustices of the judicial system in the Philippines.  Political detention continues to be an instrument of state terror!”

    Release all political prisoners! Stop Landlord abuses in Negros!

    ICHRP Condemns AFP rape and murder of 3 Lumad Youth including 12-Year-old Child

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    A day after ICC opened an investigation for the Duterte regime’s crimes against humanity, reign of terror and brutality in indigenous communities continues.

    “No amount of lies by the government can whitewash the crimes of this regime,” says the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines in a statement released after Philippine military murdered three indigenous people.

    Just one day after the International Criminal Court opened investigation of crimes against humanity against the Duterte Regime, the Armed Forces of the Philippines continued its human rights rampage, committing yet another massacre against Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao.  Three people from the Lumad Manobo tribe, including a 12-year-old child, were killed by the military in Surigao del Sur on June 15th.

    According to reports from the Human Rights group Karapatan, Willy Rodriguez, Lenie Rivas, and 12-year-old Angel Rivas asked permission from soldiers illegally occupying their villages, to go to their farm. Despite this, Angel (12) and Lenie (21) were raped before all three were brutally assaulted and then shot dead by the soldiers of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion of the Philippine Army. All of the victims were local residents of Lianga town.

    Angel was a grade 6 student at the Lumad school Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS). Meanwhile, Willy and Lenie were both members of Lumad  (Indigenous) organization Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU).  Karapatan also indicated that the victims’ bodies were brought to the army headquarters in St. Christine, Surigao del Sur and were tagged as members of the New People’s Army.

    The people of Lianga have been continually harassed by the AFP and its militias for the past decade around mineral resource and development issues. This is the same community where Lumad leaders Dionel Campos, Datu Bello Sinzo, and school director Emerito Samarca were killed on September 1, 2015, by military-backed militias.  The initial massacre led to a more than one year evacuation of the entire community to Tandag City.  Since Martial Law in Mindanao was declared in 2017, the community has suffered through military food blockades, and another four evacuations involving upwards of 1,500 people.  According to ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy, “The clear concern here is that the military itself has been conducting an endless campaign of terror against the community and its time they were removed from the equation and sent back to their barracks.”

    The conflict between the Philippine government and Indigenous communities across Mindanao is largely a struggle around resource development.  Indigenous communities as a result of government-sponsored settlement programs have been displaced and forced onto increasingly marginal lands, primarily in the mineral rich mountainous areas of Mindanao.  International mining companies now covet the Lumad Ancestral Domain, and would like to get communities off these mineral rich lands.  In the recent past Duterte has vowed to “personally choose the investors who would develop their ancestral domains”.

    The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), a global network of human rights organisations, condemns this attack saying that “no amount of lies by the government can whitewash the criminal liability of Duterte and state forces in the rape and murder of these Indigenous farmers and this 12-year-old child.

    “We are in shock at the wanton brutality exhibited by the soldiers of the regime. The sexual violence against children and state-orchestrated killings of Indigenous people rise to the level of crimes against humanity. The UN bodies should know, the world should know that Duterte’s actions have led directly to the rape and murder of Filipinos, he’s out for blood,” says ICHRP chairperson Mr. Peter Murphy.

    At least 300 farmers, indigenous people, human rights defenders, including 55 lawyers and judges, have been killed since Duterte came to power.

    ICHRP stresses that the current reality in the Philippines “is impunity, rape, mass killings and escalating human rights abuses. This is a determined affront to the efforts of the UN Human Rights Council and the entire international community.”

    We call for an end to the military occupation of Indigenous Communities

    We call for justice for the perpetrators of this heinous crime

    Stop killing Lumads!#

    Contact: Peter Murphy +61 418 312 301

    ICHRP lauds landmark ICC investigation into Duterte’s “war on drugs”

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    “The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) praises today’s announcement by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it will formally seek an investigation into the Philippine government’s deadly ‘war on drugs’”, said ICHRP spokesperson Mr. Peter Murphy.

    Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that she has concluded her preliminary examination of the Philippines and is seeking authorisation from the Court’s judges for a full investigation into the crime against humanity of murder committed in connection with the country’s ‘war on drugs’ between 1 July 2016 and 16 March 2019, and torture and other inhumane acts, and related events as early as 1 November 2011.

    “ICHRP sees this announcement as a positive step that may help bring some measure of justice to the thousands victimized and terrorized by the Duterte Regime’s so-called ‘war on drugs’. Justice may also come to those who are victimized by Duterte government’s war on Islamic communities and war on dissent,” said Mr Murphy.

    “The United Nations Human Rights Council must now initiate a long overdue independent investigation into the Philippines to examine crimes under international law and other serious violations of human rights committed over the full duration of the Duterte administration, including its so-called war on drugs. The perpetrators and architects of these crimes must be held to account,” said Mr Murphy.

    The ICC announcement follows the recently launched independent civil society commission of investigation (Investigate PH), which has been examining the deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines including and beyond the so-called war on drugs. The first report of Investigate PH was delivered to the UNHRC by ICHRP in March 2021, which highlighted many of the issues that will be tackled by the International Criminal Court.

    Duterte’s state-orchestrated killings amount to crimes against humanity

    The case against the Duterte government is already well documented, including by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Investigate PH.  Reports have been published on major investigations detailing ongoing extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations by the police and their superiors.  Despite the continued broad exposure of the human rights situation by domestic and international human rights organizations, however, the killings continue unabated.

    Since the beginning of the Duterte administration in July 2016, thousands of people mostly from poor and marginalized communities have been killed – either by the police or by armed individuals suspected to have links to the police.  These killings have been conducted by state institutions with impunity, and there is a clear lack or absence of effective domestic remedies to stop the killings.

    Evidence emerging from Investigate PH’s second round of hearings in May 2021 supports the charge that institutions of the state are being used as instruments of terror to organize and execute extra judicial killings.

    “Further action from the international community is urgently needed,” said Mr Murphy.

    Instead of taking positive action when informed of these systemic and widespread human rights violations, and recognizing the complicity of the Philippine Government, the UN Human Rights Council voted to provide technical cooperation and capacity-building to the same government that has publicly endorsed the policy of killings, avoided independent investigations, and continued its crackdown on civil society. “ICHRP calls on the UN Human Rights Council to act now, and to send a strong message that it too will no longer allow the Philippine government to continue its campaign of human rights violations with impunity,” concluded Mr. Murphy.