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UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan urged to act on Marcos Jr. repression of Freedom of Expression in the Philippines and Overseas

UN Special Rapporteur Irene Khan urged to act on Marcos Jr. repression of Freedom of Expression in the Philippines and Overseas

Press Release
January 30, 2024

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) welcomes the current visit of Special Rapporteur Ms Irene Khan to examine attacks of Freedom of Expression by the Marcos Jr. government. It is an important event in the opening up of the Philippines to international scrutiny following the ugly abuse directed at international institutions by the Philippine government.

ICHRP presented data to Ms Khan prior to her visit, showing that the Philippine state has brought its war on dissent and on any critical voice to Australia, Canada, the US, Hong Kong and elsewhere. It has attacked foreign nationals in the Philippines without cause, it has banned the entry of and red tagged foreign nationals. The Philippine government has conducted public attacks in the media on ICHRP, and sent agents of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) overseas to defame ICHRP and its members. It has conducted cyber warfare against ICHRP’s electronic infrastructure – all in an attempt to silence its Human Rights work.

On two occasions in August and September 2022, the state security apparatus red tagged foreign-based ICHRP staff members who visited Manila, using tarpaulins alleging that the individuals supported the Communist Party of the Philippines / New Peoples Army / National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP / NPA / NDFP).

NTF-ELCAC Spokesperson General Antonio Parlade visited Australia in February 2021 and publicly intimidated ICHRP member Honorary Professor Gill Boehringer as well as other individuals and a number of legal NGOs and political organizations in Australia at several public Filipino community meetings. In these meetings organized by the Philippine Consuls in Melbourne and Sydney and attended by Filipino- Australians, Parlade used a powerpoint to name Boehringer and others as agents of the CPP, claiming that he was a major figure in financing and developing support for “Communist Terrorist Groups”. (In fact, membership of the CPP was legalised by then-President Fidel Ramos way back in September 1992.)

ICHRP Canada Chairperson Rev. Dr. Patricia Lisson has been red-tagged by the Duterte-sponsored Sonshine Media Network Inc (SMNI) on a number of occasions. On September 19, 2023, the SMNI radio show Laban Kasama ang Bayan did a segment red tagging ICHRP-Canada. Their monologue focused on a response from NTF-ELCAC to ICHRP-Canada’s letter on the Anti-Terrorism Law.

There has been no accountability since Duterte unleashed his gruesome drug war and police-sanctioned vigilante killings in July 2016. Duterte fostered a climate of impunity for state-sponsored killings and the suppression of freedom of speech. Mechanisms such as the Anti-Terrorism Law, the NTF-ELCAC and the formal counter-insurgency program have institutionalized state terror in an ongoing war on dissent, including in the media. The state does not distinguish between civilians and combatants, putting unarmed citizens in the firing line, subjecting rural communities to aerial bombardment and shelling, and violating human rights through pervasive surveillance, judicial harassment, forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

Duterte’s climate of impunity for human rights violations has continued unabated under Marcos Jr., and all the machinery of repression developed under Duterte continues to operate, with substantial extra resources, under Marcos Jr. ICHRP as a human rights network has directly experienced ongoing attempts by the Philippine to bully and silence those who advocate for human rights and international humanitarian law through the NTF-ELCAC and other institutions of the state in its “whole-of-nation-approach”. The continued attempts to restrict Freedom of Expression in the Philippines is a concerning reality for all who address issues of economic, social, political and other human rights.

ICHRP joins its partners in the Philippines in condemning the ongoing suppression of freedom of speech and shrinking of civil society space for freedom of expression, both in the Philippines and globally, as the Philippines extends its war on dissent overseas.

We join other victims of the Philippine government in urgently calling for truth, justice, accountability and an end to the culture of impunity that has fostered state terror and shielded alleged criminals like Duterte, Marcos Jr. and their agents. We urge Special Rapporteur Khan to speak out against and formally report on the attacks on Freedom of Expression by the Marcos Jr. government, both in the Philippines and overseas. #

For further comment: Peter Murphy +61 418 312 301 [email protected]