iDefend Statement: SEC “kill” order is an intensifiedattack on press freedom in the Philippines

On Monday, the Securities and Exchange Commission has ordered the closure of online news organization RAPPLER, for alleged violation of constitutional limits on foreign ownership of mass media. It is the first official attack on the country’s press freedom by the government, following threats against other media organizations such as ABS CBN by President Duterte, and forcing a change in ownership of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in 2017. Increasingly, this government has proven that it does not welcome any contrary viewpoints much less tolerate their proliferation.

Rappler is one of the first few news groups that started reporting on extrajudicial killings at the beginning of the government’s war on drugs in 2016 and has earned the ire of the President for its consistent coverage of police corruption, the war on the poor, martial law in Mindanao and the internet being ‘weaponized’ to support a culture of violence.

Rappler is considered by human rights groups as a frontline news organization that focuses on stories that matter, at the same time a leader among Philippine media in combating fake news and fake information, which has been used to cripple most voices critical of Duterte’s policies. It has long been a target of Duterte’s highly organized scheme of harassment and intimidation. Rappler is only the latest victim in the government’s war against the truth.

The SEC ‘kill order’ on RAPPLER is another brick in Duterte’s steady rise to authoritarian rule- a chilling message that press freedom, one of the country’s strongest democracy pillars, can be brought down. With a weakened Supreme Court, a lapdog Congress, and Cabinet officials as henchmen of the ‘wanna-be dictator’, press freedom is in a critical state.

In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement believes that right now, a free press is almost all that stands between a fighting chance for human rights advocacy and a graveyard silence of totalitarianism. However it is also the people’s voices that stand between Duterte’s ambitions and the defense of our democracy. So much of our values and liberties-painstakingly rebuilt after the Marcos dictatorship, albeit imperfect, have been destroyed in less than two years of Duterte’s rule; this is the challenge we, as a free nation need to overcome, thus we cannot waiver.

iDEFEND condemns this latest plot to eliminate press freedom by shutting RAPPLER down. iDEFEND supports RAPPLER’s legal challenge against the SEC order, and calls on all to protect our free press. #StandwithRappler

Martial Law Extension: Not the road to progress and lasting peace in Mindanao

As Congress deliberates the extension of Martial Law, we the Kalipunan ng Kilusang Masa (KALIPUNAN) a union of movements of farmers, workers, urban poor, women, environmental activists, youth, students stand in solidarity with our Mindanawon sisters and brothers in demanding the immediate lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao.

When armed conflict began in Marawi after the botched government operation on Isnilon Hapilon, and then hundreds of thousands of women, children and men were displaced in Marawi and nearby municipalities, the ensuing violence and imposition of Martial Law from above only served to further silence the voice of the people and deepen divides among us. What Martial Law has done is add another painful moment in the conflict-ridden history of the tri-peoples of Mindanao.

With Martial Law, there have been reports of harassment and public humiliation of Moro civilians made to stand beside photos of members of the Maute group, immobility of internally displaced peoples, growing animosity among local populations due to discrimination against fleeing Moros, several forms of violence against women and children[i].

Undeniably, the struggle of the Mindanawon people for peace was made even more arduous and bleak with the declaration of Martial Law in the entire island region. Such declaration blatantly set aside years of peace building by social movements, and one that has done nothing but sow fear among people and suppress their rights.

As social movements, we believe the way towards peace begins not in suppressing the people’s rights as it is labelled as Martial Law— peace begins in listening then responding to the plea of communities and movements working in the grassroots. The peace process is strengthened in the inclusion of local communities, local indigenous and religious leaders, and their movements.

In the face of more conflict and violence, peoples and their movements must stand in solidarity with one another— for the path towards peace in Mindanao is built on the unity of our peoples, not on suppressing our rights and deepening divides among us.

Congress as supposed representatives of the people must answer to the actual conditions of our people: begin by listening to our demands and lift Martial Law in Mindanao! Recognize and uphold human rights!


No to Extension of Martial Law in Mindanao

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) continues to call for the lifting of Martial Law throughout the whole island of Mindanao. For a policy that has been highly problematic since its inception, the continued subjugation of the citizens of Mindanao under heavy-handed militaristic policy from Malacanang has brought insecurity, further strife and the continuing delegitimation of the rule of law.

Since May 23, Mindanao has been subjected to Martial Law, allegedly in aid of the operations of the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police to flush out local terrorist elements of the Abu Sayyaf and Maute Groups, who have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. While the Battle of Marawi has officially ended last October 23, the costs to human life, cultural heritage, economic productivity, social harmony and political stability in Marawi are near-immeasurable. International humanitarian efforts and standards, as borne out of global practice (and as mandated by the Philippine Constitution, as per Section 18, Art. VII) would require the restoration of civilian authority at the soonest possible time.

And yet, since the early days of December 2017, the Duterte regime continues to insist on the extension of Martial Law throughout Mindanao – bandying the supposed necessity of stamping out remaining terrorist and rebellious elements, without ever being transparent on the extent of such threats. Multiple state personnel – from the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Philippine National Police, alleged “higher up” sources from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and even the Regional Peace and Order Councils (RPOCs) under DILG – insist on its necessity, supposedly to prevent the Maute and ASG from regrouping, as well as supposedly neutralizing the alleged “tactical alliance” between Islamic extremists and the New People’s Army (NPA).

The rhetoric employed is virtually copied out of the old, Marcos-era scare tactics of the “unholy alliance” of “communists, terrorists and oppositionists” that it beggars being taken seriously. It is also curious to find how the very government office supposed to make considered policy on the crisis at hand, the Department of National Defense (DND), has not been given proper space to air its opinion at all – which is probably unsurprising, considering Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s tendency to oppose Malacanang’s ill-conceived, gung-ho posturings every step of the way. Moreover, in all this, the opinions of those whose fates are in the balance are continuously disregarded: the refugees from Marawi and other war-torn areas of Muslim Mindanao, whose stories of horror and despair already cry for humanitarian, civilian and legal governance responses. The furthering of war would divorce them from their homes indefinitely.

Learned opinion in the law (such as those of ex-Solicitor General Florin Hilbay and Albay Representative Edcel Lagman) have already pointed out the virtual absence of any further basis for the extension of Martial Law. If the government respects legal tradition, the rule of law and the pleas of its citizen, this should have been the end of discussion. Yet the Duterte regime, continuing to live up to its hallmark of brazen disregard for constitutional supremacy, continues to mobilize its bullies in Congress to vote once more for its extension.

The continuing spate of extrajudicial killings of community leaders throughout the country (plus the recent arrest of activists) continue to belie any benevolent intentions the Duterte regime may continue to claim for its extension of Martial Law. If any, it only affirms what international commentary and predictions fear. The high-handed policy of Rodrigo Duterte, imposed ironically and tragically against his fellow Mindanaoans, will only further resentment, fear and distrust amongst our countrymen. They will only, if left unchecked, provide recruitment grounds for extremist forces, which will prolong the conflict in long-suffering Mindanao.

We in SENTRO continue to call on the government to stop using the self-defeating logic of the gun. We urge it, once again, to stop playing with the Filipino people’s lives and instead, protect it. The displaced and despairing people of Marawi ask for peace and their homes back. By persisting on a military course of action, the government becomes complicit in their continued deprivation and exile.


The In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) condemns in the strongest terms – the continuing attack against human rights defenders (HRDs) in the Philippines which is now compounded by the Duterte administration’s anti-human rights policies and actions that are creating a more hostile environment for human rights work.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in many instances has repeatedly threatened to kill human rights defenders who are criticizing his bloody “war on drugs” that already claimed more than 13,000 deaths including innocent civilians and children. By recently declaring the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as “terrorists” and by ordering the immediate arrest, not only of armed rebels, but also of all members of the “legal fronts” supporting them, he just made an open season for further attack against the human rights defenders.

The killing of activist priest Marcelito “Tito” Paez of the Rural Missionary in Nueva Ecija creates a chilling effect that no one is safe and that anyone who gets in his way will be silenced.

The President’s utter disrespect towards democracy and rule of law is showing no pretense to exhibit his authoritarian streak by denying the voices of dissent. His government is destroying the generations of progress on the respect and protection of human rights in the guise of war on drugs and terror.

We therefore hold the Duterte government accountable for the systematic violence against human rights defenders who are carrying out peaceful and legitimate work to make meaningful changes in the country. President Duterte should be reminded that the Philippine Government has a legal obligation to respect human rights of all and to exert efforts to protect all human rights defenders at all times without exemption.

But we all know that a person obsessed with power will never listen. Often the bully takes pleasure in seeing a victim’s fear. The only way to stop a tyrant is by standing up firmly together. The only thing necessary for the triumph of tyranny is for us to do nothing.

We should therefore stand in solidarity with the Filipino people in the fight for democracy, and against the return to authoritarianism. Human rights will never be given to the people on a silver platter, we have to fight for it.


Kalipunan calls on the government to end impunity

The on-going crackdown and intensified attacks of the Duterte administration on legal progressive forces, who are suspected of being part of or playing a vital role in the rebel movement has reached a disturbing level. As organizations grounded in the experiences of communities, we condemn the violence that has resulted in the loss of lives. We are alarmed by the current situation marked by increased tension at the grassroots level, and the instilling of an atmosphere of fear and suspicion, which can allow the setting up and justification of authoritarian rule in the country.

On Monday, Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez of the Diocese of San Jose, who was committed to communities and victims of human rights violations in Nueva Ecija and Central Luzon, was gunned down hours after facilitating the release of a political prisoner. On the same night, the arrest of transport leader George San Mateo was ordered. Prior to these attacks, Pastor Lovelito Quiñones of King’s Glory Ministry was shot by soldiers while on a motorcycle on his way home. Several other cases of human rights violations have transpired in provinces in the recent weeks following the pronouncement of the President “to surrender or die.” The intensified crackdown reminds us of how military and police personnel committed atrocities and abuses against civilians, including opposition leaders, journalists, and activists, 30 years ago during the authoritarian Marcos regime.

Before these recent attacks, we have already witnessed how state forces have disregarded their constitutional duty to serve and protect the people as they have in fact, done the opposite as evidenced by the thousands of men, women, and children silenced by the War on Drugs and extra-judicial killings. We are threatened by the continued disregard and disrespect of our rights, the silencing of dissent, and the escalation of violence and deaths.

We in the Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa, a growing assembly of social movements, lament the senseless violence and the loss of lives of our fellow Filipinos. We call on the government to end impunity by doing its job of finding the culprits as well as prosecuting and punishing them. We, likewise, urge the government to stop playing with the Filipino people’s lives and instead, protect it and end the assault on human rights. We stand indignant against the intensification of police and military operations and the targeted attacks of progressive groups. In a society where the loss of life and violence have become commonplace and widespread, it must be realized that this should not be the norm. If anything, the government must be bettering the lives of all, not ending them.

Kalipunan ng mga Kilusang Masa