December 10, 2023
Another year has passed in the Marcos Presidency but the machinery of state terror, including the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Anti-Terror Law, built during the US-Duterte Regime, remain in place. The Anti-Terrorism Act with its broad sweeping powers and the NTF-ELCAC, along with the Philippine National Police (PNP)and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), continue to operate as mechanisms to crush dissent and to violate the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of citizens.
The Philippines continues to be a killing ground for perceived political dissidents, community organizers, indigenous people, rights advocates, and alleged drug suspects. As we mark the 75th commemoration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, ICHRP denounces the ongoing attacks and violations of the rights of the Filipino people by the Marcos Jr administration. But on a more optimistic note we are heartened by the recent joint statement of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) signalling a potential resumption of the peace process that had been abruptly ended by the fascist Duterte government in November 2017.
ICHRP looks positively on the statements of both parties that the roots of the armed conflict need to be addressed. There are a number of important agreements that have been signed by both parties over the years including The Hague Joint Declaration in 1992, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) in 1995, and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) in 1998. ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy commented that “these previous agreements should be considered more than isulat sa tubig (write it on water) by the GRP as that would undermine the credibility of their commitment to respect the terms of any future agreements.
“ICHRP urges the parties to move on and continue their previous work towards a Compressive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms to be able to address the roots of the armed conflict,” said Murphy.
“While ICHRP is hopeful that substantive negotiations are steps toward achieving a just and lasting peace we remain deeply concerned about the ongoing level of repression, oppression and exploitation experienced by the Filipino people,” Murphy said.
At least 13 peace consultants have been murdered by the Philippine government since it withdrew from the peace talks with the NDFP in 2017. Most recently, NDFP peace consultant Rogelio Posadas was arrested and summarily executed by state agents on April 20, 2023. The killing of Posadas came just days after the announcement of the deaths of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon NDFP negotiating panel member and consultants. They were reportedly captured with eight others in August 2022, tortured, killed, and their bodies placed in a boat which was later blown up by the military. Other recent victims in the killing spree against peace consultants rendered hors de combat by the AFP include Erickson Acosta, peasant organizer Joseph Jimenez arrested and then executed in Negros Occidental, on November 30, 2022, and Pedro Codaste on January 21, 2022. “These cases of abduction, torture and execution by the AFP represent clear violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL),” said Murphy. “These killings must stop and the perpetrators must be held accountable.”
We look at the situation in the Philippines in the context of other blatant violations of IHL across the globe such as in: Manipur; Myanmar; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Sudan; Yemen; Karabagh; Gaza and elsewhere. In Gaza, where there are documented daily occurrences of indiscriminate bombings of hospitals, schools, refugee camps and evacuation centres, there is the absolute failure of international mechanisms to prevent such atrocities. The failure of global institutions to safeguard and address the ongoing genocide in Palestine and other parts of the world raises troubling concerns about such violations in the Philippines. Typically, such attacks on civilians, with the exception of the atrocities committed by the AFP in Marawi City, occur in remote and isolated rural areas largely invisible to the international community.
Numerous incidents of IHL violations including hamletting, red-tagging, harassment of civilians, and indiscriminate firing and bombing of communities were reported this year in different areas of the Philippines, including Cagayan Valley, Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas, Negros Island, and Mindanao. Rural areas of Negros continued to be the scene of ongoing state violence. Several hinterland villages of Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, were subjected to artillery shelling last August 5, 2023, by the 62nd Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, for one-and-a-half hours, from 5 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. There were similar reports from the Cordillera region where in March 2023 in Balbalan, Kalinga, residents were unable to see to the irrigation of their rice terraces due to the 5th Infantry Division’s indiscriminate and intensive aerial bombing and artillery firing followed by the massive entry of ground troops into their villages. In June 2023 Karapatan indicated that they had documented up to 6,931 victims of aerial bombings and artillery strikes in the first year of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s rule.
The media also remains under attack from the Marcos government. Journalist, Frenchie Mae Cumpio, remains behind bars facing trumped-up charges. Marcos Jr has not reinstated the broadcast franchise of ABS-CBN suspended by the Duterte Regime. Journalists also continue to be killed by state actors under the Marcos Jr government, including the recent death of Juan Jumalon (DJ Johnny Walker), whose November 5th killing was live streamed as he was in the middle of an on-air broadcast. The Philippines remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist, with 179 journalists killed since end of the Marcos Sr. Dictatorship in February 1986.
The Marcos Jr. government claims it is addressing the drug war killings, however the Third World Studies Centre reported on June 26, 2023, that there had been 336 “drug-related” killings since Marcos Jr. became president, most during law enforcement anti-drug operations.
Clearly, domestic remedies have failed under both Duterte and Marcos Jr., as elements of the judiciary are complicit in the ongoing war on dissent, using the bench to support military and police attacks on dissenters through warrants of search and arrest that frequently ended in the summary killing of the accused. The courts continue to be used as an element of repression, one element in the entire machinery of the state which has been weaponized in the fascist whole-of-nation approach to target 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:
- the Philippine government to rejoin the International Criminal Court (ICC) and allow it to conduct investigations in the Philippines related to the alleged Crime Against Humanity of murder and other violations of International Humanitarian Law by the Duterte government.
- 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.
- the Philippine government to stop the bombings of civilian communities and production areas in the countryside and other grave violations of International Humanitarian Law.
- the Marcos Jr. government to respect all previously signed peace agreements with the NDFP and release the 791 political prisoners who remain in detention, and to remove the terrorist designation of the NDFP and Luis Jalandoni and others as a confidence building measures for the peace process.
- the 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 and IHL violations.
- the Philippine government to uphold human rights and the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its Additional Protocols of 1977.
Further comment: Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson, +61418312301