Women Amplify Call to Stop Marcos Burial at Libingan ng mga Bayani and to Stop the Killings

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At 6 this evening, women from various groups, many of whom were at the Luneta rally on Aug. 14, gathered at the World Scout Jamboree in Timog, bringing stone markers with names of women victims-survivors during Martial Law. They also lit candles to protest the killings happening in the name of the drug war, now reaching 1,103 as of Aug. 18.

“The killings are reminiscent of the early days of Martial law, which delivered shock and awe with the targeting first of drug offenders,” said Jean Enriquez, Philippine coordinator of the World March of Women. “We do not want our country to fall back to the dark days of the dictatorship that did not recognize the fundamental rights of its citizens,” she added.

The group also opposed the interment of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery). “Such will lay to waste the years of struggle of many women who fought and died during Martial Law,” said Joanne Bernice Coronacion, of SENTRO-Women. “Our fellow worker Lisa Balando was killed by a Metrocom’s bullet in 1971 in front of the old Senate Building, and she is the one who should be recognized as a hero, not Marcos.”

The women brought other women heroes’ names such as those of Liliosa Hilao, the Kalinga women who fought the Chico river dam construction, the survivors of Jolo Burning, Palimbang and Manili massacres in Mindanao.

“We also support the legislative investigation of the extra-judicial killings and are angered by the sexist harassment by the current President of Sen. Leila De Lima, added Enriquez. She lamented that the President consistently harassed women who filed a complaint against the rape joke, to Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and now, Sen. De Lima. “Such attacks by the patriarch tries to send the message that anyone who stands in the way will be disparaged, but not his co-patriarchs like Marcos,” said Enriquez.

Participating organizations included the World March of Women, Center for Migrant Advocacy, Phils. Inc., Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP),

Focus on the Global South, Foundation for Media Alternatives, I Defend Human Rights and Dignity Movement, Ladies Who Launch, Lilak (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights), PILIPINA, Sarilaya, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa – Women, Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), WomanHealth Philippines, Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau – WLB, and Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE).

Don’t make the war on drugs a war on human rights, new HR group told President Duterte

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Newly formed human rights coalition, In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend|) calls on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte not to make his government’s war on drugs a war on human rights.

In their joint statement, the group emphasized that no matter who is extrajudicially killed or whose rights are violated, he or she is a human being with rights and dignity and that human rights are for all, especially for the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable.

Since May 2016, more than 700 people have been killed by police and vigilantes in the Philippines for being suspected of using or dealing drugs, as a direct result of President Duterte’s campaign to get rid of illegal drugs within six months. In addition, more than 500, 000 alleged pushers and users have already surrendered to authorities under the “Oplan Tokhang” out of fear and humiliation.

The international community has already expressed serious concern with the increasing number of reported extrajudicial killings and other forms of human rights violations in the name of drug control measure. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) even reiterated that such actions contravene to the provisions of the international drug control conventions and will not help to ensure that all people can live a life in good health, dignity and peace, and with security and prosperity.

Prompted by this alarming human rights situation, more than 30 non-governmental organizations of human rights defenders joined hands to form today a new coalition called In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement or iDefend. The group believes that the arbitrary killing of suspects that bypasses the fundamental due process endangers everyone in the Philippine society as anyone can now be accused of any crime or involvement in illegal drugs and be executed before and without having a chance to publicly defend themselves in court.

”Illegal drugs are harmful. But by encouraging the police to use their guns to deal with it is even more dangerous and will not stop the vicious cycle of violence. It only creates a climate of fear, insecurity and helplessness.” Ms. Rose Trajano, Convenor of iDefend said.

The iDefend challenges the Duterte administration that if the government is really sincere in curbing crime and drugs trade, it should do it by introducing policies that will alleviate poverty, stamp out corruption at all levels of government and reform the criminal justice system.

“We can’t cow to silence when day after day people are being killed. There is no compromise to human rights. We can’t allow this abnormal situation to become normal. We need to have unrelenting courage and determination to defend and to advance our human rights,” Ms. Trajano added.

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Labor group urges Duterte to follow through with his warning vs. abusive employers

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Labor Day 2016 photo

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa or SENTRO welcomes the President’s warning to companies to immediately desist from abusing contractualization. To bolster the President’s pronouncement to end contractualization in the country, SENTRO urges Duterte to come up with the list of top 1,000 corporations who are known to violate contracting and monitor their compliance in the next 3 months.

“Truth is, the abusive use of contractual employment is malignant. Almost all industries are widely infected,” Frank Mero, Chairperson of SENTRO announced. “Putting the top 1,000 violators on notice will clearly signal that this pernicious practice has to end now,” he added.

For years, SENTRO, NAGKAISA and the whole labor movement have been pushing for the passage of the Security of Tenure (SOT) bill that is aimed at plugging the loopholes in the labor code that allow companies to evade the regularization of workers.

SENTRO is a national labor center that was established in 2013 with membership covering workers from major industries and sectors nationwide. NAGKAISA is an alliance of some 40 major trade unions and labor federations in the country.

End Impunity, Stand Up for Human Rights, Uphold Due Process

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SONA STATEMENT of Citizens’ Council for Human Rights

In a little less than a month since his inauguration, President Rodrigo Duterte has delivered on his campaign promise to go after suspected drug pushers and users with little or no regard for human rights and due process. Units of the Philippine National Police, under the command of his close associate General Ronald (“Bato”) de la Rosa, have turned many low-income neighborhoods in the country into free fire zones. The bloody encounters taking place daily have polarized the country between those who support the president’s quick and dirty methods of dealing with drugs and crime and those who regard them as illegal, immoral, and self-defeating.

To date, more than 500 people had been killed in intensified anti-drug operations since the May 9 elections in which Duterte emerged as the victor. The pattern is worrisome: The police announce that drug pushers or users have been killed in an operation. Slain people are shown on television, invariably with firearms near their hands. The now routine police explanation: “The victims resisted arrest and fired on us, so we had to shoot them in self defense.” In some instances, the police story borders on the incredible. In a Pasay City precinct, for instance, two manacled suspects are shown on television being led into jail. Shortly thereafter, a policeman emerges to tell the press the father and son were shot dead inside the jail since they tried to reach for the police’s pistols and had to be killed “in self-defense.”

The suspicious circumstances surrounding incidents like this and many others have convinced many that the killings are rub-outs by the police profiting from the illegal drug trade who are out to eliminate people who can connect them to drugs. Others wonder if this anti-drug push might not be a case of killing the small fry but protecting the big fish since there have hardly been any big-time drug lords apprehended.

Whatever the causes of the wave of extra-judicial killings by police and unidentified people, the president must take responsibility for having encouraged them. Throughout his campaign for the presidency, he claimed that criminals had no rights and that they were better off dead than alive. During his victory speech in Davao on June 6, he asked people to take the law in their own hands and kill drug pushers, offering a higher bounty to people who killed suspected drug dealers than to those who brought them alive to the authorities. He has repeatedly said that rehabilitation does not work and at the solidarity dinner at the Del Pan Sports Complex on the very night of his inauguration, he told people that “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourselves as getting their parents to do it would be too painful.” To the police who follow his orders, he has said more than once, “If in the process you kill one thousand persons because you were doing your duty, I will protect you.”

Fighting Drugs and Crime the Right Way

Those who uphold human rights and due process have been accused of not sharing the population’s concern with curbing crime. This is a lie.

We do not question the goal of fighting drugs and crime. Indeed, we support it. But it cannot be achieved by trampling on human rights. No one has the right to take life except in the very special circumstance and in a very clear case of self-defense—not a police setup masquerading as “self defense.” Everyone is entitled to the right to life and its protection by the state.

Moreover, denying some classes of people these rights, as Duterte does, puts all of us on the slippery slope that could end up extending this denial to other groups, like one’s political enemies or people that “disrupt” public order, like anti-government demonstrators or people striking for better pay. In this connection, we cannot forget that candidate Duterte threatened to kill workers who stood in the way of his economic development plans and made the blanket judgment that all journalists who had been assassinated were corrupt and deserved to be eliminated. That was no slip of the tongue.

A Dangerous Path

President Duterte’s explicit, indeed boisterous denial of human rights and due process to suspected wrongdoers makes him unique among those who have served as chief executive, most of whom explicitly promised to uphold due process even if some of them deliberately violated it in practice in pursuit of their political enemies. Duterte would not, however, be as confident in his attack on the universality of human rights and the state’s duty to ensure due process to suspects were he not supported in his extreme views by many if not most of those who voted for him. Duterte feels he has a blank cheque to disregard the law, and he is encouraged in this behavior by the rabid support he gets from many supporters who copy his aggressive style in expressing their views in the media.

This dangerous synergy between the Leader and his followers is normalizing the denial and ridiculing of human rights and due process. And this can only lead to the erosion of the foundational belief of the 1987 Constitution: that each citizen of the Republic is endowed with fundamental, political, civil, social, economic, and cultural rights and is entitled to the protection of the law. Further the Constitution’s Bill of Rights states that: “No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law.” And that “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.”

We demand that President Duterte order a halt to the extra-judicial killings and restore the rule of law and due process. We urge him to desist from inflammatory rhetoric that can only turn this country into one vast killing field where a rogue police force and vigilantes roam with impunity.

But above all we ask our fellow citizens to come out and speak up for the inviolability and universality of human rights, the rule of law, and due process. These gains that our people made in their long struggle for their fundamental rights and democratic rule are under threat. Impunity should neither be made the foundation nor should it be made to serve as a “counter-balance” or “exchange” for future economic and social development. Acquiescence and silence in the face of the impunity that now reigns is the surest way to the loss of the rights of all.

CCHR is a broad coalition of non-government organizations (NGOs), people’s organizations (POs), human rights lawyers, religious sector and members of the academe that came together to defend and assert human rights for all.

Extra-judicial killings: Normalizing criminality under the guise of peace and order

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Citizen’s Council for Human Rights (CCHR) urges Duterte administration to stop the killings

The Citizen’s Council for Human Rights (CCHR) strongly condemns the escalating number of killings of suspected drug pushers and dependents who said to have died either during so-called legitimate police operations or at the hands of unknown gunmen.

The surge in fatalities is too alarming to be ignored: from January 1 to May 9 this year (129 days), reported deaths from drug-related violence was 39. But the death count suddenly swelled after May 10. In a matter of 64 days, 251 deaths have already been reported. What makes these spate of executions most worrisome is that this was prompted by President Duterte’s pronouncements, made even before his assumption into office, that urged the police, ordinary citizens and later, the New Peoples Army to kill all those involved in the illegal drug trade, with the promise that he would shield them against any legal consequences.

Coming from the Chief Executive himself, this declaration legitimizes a system of crime response where the police and regular citizens become prosecutors, judges and executioners. The Criminal Justice System provides safeguards to protect suspected offenders and all citizens against arbitrary acts through transparency, and checks and balances. The arbitrary killing of suspects bypasses this system altogether, infringes on fundamental due process tenets and denies people the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The social costs and dangers of arbitrary methods should not be underestimated. The disregard of safeguards endangers everyone in Philippine society: anyone can now be accused of any crime or involvement in illegal drugs and be executed before and without having a chance to publicly defend themselves in court. There is no reason why these violations will not extend to law-abiding citizens and human rights and environmental defenders, as in the case of Gloria Capitan, grandmother and campaigner for her community’s environmental rights.

Human rights organizations and the CHR have spent over three decades sensitizing security forces on human rights values and ideals, but these efforts are about to go for naught.

Besides extra-judicial executions, the Duterte administration’s war on drugs has inspired other excesses. At least one woman and a child has been sexually harassed in the course of operations. On many occasions, suspected drug peddlers and drug dependents, before having their day in court, are paraded in public places.

Apart from being an affront to the dignity of persons and their loved ones, shame campaigns and sexual harassment also undermine the well-being of communities and Philippine society in general. Such acts, categorized as psychological torture is prohibited by the Anti-Torture Act of 2009 or RA 9745. By allowing such illegal acts by authorities, we contribute to the culture haphazard, harmful and arbitrary dispensation of justice. Local Executives should treat drug dependents with compassion and facilitate their rehabilitation while ensuring that those involved in the drug trade are brought to justice through legitimate processes.

The Citizen’s Council for Human Rights does not believe these methods which deliberately violate the right to life, right to dignity and due process, will solve the country’s crime and illegal drugs problem. In fact, the social costs and dangers of employing extra-legal methods are high.

Finally, CCHR calls on the Duterte government to:

1. Immediately stop the killings of suspected criminals and drug related offenders
Law enforcement authorities and government officials should abide by our criminal justice system, by securing warrants prior to arrest, strict observance of police rules of engagement and maximum tolerance in the arrest of suspects, filing of appropriate cases and bringing them to the BJMP without harm and allowing them to stand trial. The killing of suspects outside the rule of law is palliative and does not tackle the core of the crime and drug problems.

2. Strictly prohibit LGU Executives and law enforcement units from implementing torture and dehumanizing methods in the fight against crime and drugs.

The listing of and knocking on houses of persons suspected of peddling and using drugs to as well as the “walks of shame” destroy the humanity of persons and their families. These individuals are also deprived of their right to due process and to reintegrate with their communities with dignity.

3. Professionalize and raise the human rights and respect for the rule of law standards of the PNP, PDEA, NBI and other law enforcement agencies and rid their ranks of those involved in corruption and syndicated crime.
The most professional and efficient law enforcement agencies in the world are those which have solid human rights foundations and those that strictly adhere to the very laws they are tasked to uphold. Strict adherence to the Rule of Law, institutional safeguards and respect for human rights must be the cornerstones of Philippine law enforcement modernization and professionalization.

4. Review and reform the criminal justice system and root out corruption in the prosecution service, courts, the BJMP and the Bucor as soon as possible with the view of making the whole system prompt and efficient in dispensing justice and reforming persons.

5. Institute mechanisms widely accessible to ordinary Filipinos so that corruption, involvement in crime, violations to the rule of law and due process as well as extra judicial killings and other grave excesses can be promptly reported to relevant institutions.

6. Review and reconsider state policy on drug addiction and make available and accessible proper drug rehabilitation programs and facilities to the majority of drug dependents who come from the poor.

Drug dependents are persons who are ill and are victims of addictive substances. While the manufacture and sale of drugs are crimes, drug addiction is not. Drug abuse is a public health issue and it should be the DOH and its counterpart units at the LGU handling drug rehabilitation programs and facilities, not corrections officials. 60% of those in Philippine jails and penal institutions are incarcerated due to drug offenses under the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2009 or RA 9165; these are people who need proper treatment.

7. Invest in the realization of a life of dignity for all.
Essential services such as education, health, housing, food and the commons such as water and electricity and other basic needs which people need to get out of poverty and become productive members of Philippine society, should be democratized. These requirements of a life of dignity provide people with economic and social opportunities, enabling them to pave their way out of often unbearable conditions which engender anti-social values and behavior. We should address the roots of rampant crime and extensive drug trade and abuse as well as many other social problems by stamping out poverty and social idleness. These social levelers include a good public education which exists for the benefit of public order. Currently, we waste human resources because so many in poor communities are unskilled, when they could contribute to nation building. When all in Philippine society enjoy a productive life of dignity, there will be few left who are prone and vulnerable to dysfunctional behavior or predisposed to a life of crime and drugs.

8. Halt all initiatives toward the reimposition of the Death Penalty and the lowering of the age of discernment.

9. Investigate and prosecute the authorities responsible for human rights violations in the course of the drug war implementation. Justice must be served to the families of those killed, tortured and to those who suffered from sexual harassment.

Stop the killings and shame campaigns! No to vigilantism!

Address the root cause of social problems!

Bring offenders to justice through due process and the rule of law!

[CCHR is a broad coalition of non-government organizations (NGOs), people’s organizations (POs), human rights lawyers, religious sector and members of the academe that came together to defend and assert human rights for all.]