Category Archives: Human Rights

SENTRO Statement in Support of the CBCP Pastoral Letter

File photo / Bullit Marquez

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) welcomes the Pastoral Letter released by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) last January 30, 2017, entitled “For I find no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies (Ez. 18:32)”. In these times of confusion, fear, state-led intimidation, and a seven-month Reign of Terror, the statement of our respected Bishops is just about the right kind of disturbing voice in the wilderness our lost compatriots need right now.

We nod in agreement when the CBCP states: “The deep root of the drug problem and criminality is the poverty of the majority, the destruction of the family and corruption in society. The step we have to take is to overcome poverty, especially through the giving of permanent work and sufficient wages to workers (underscoring ours).”

We have to confront the socio-economic and cultural factors that create this malady – including the lack of sources of income, the job insecurity, the loneliness and predatorial culture that individualistic capitalism engenders, the unreformed, syndicated and corrupt police and law enforcement.

We, as militant workers from all sectors of our society, are ourselves men and women with families, who are as adamant in protecting our own children from the dangers of the drug trade. And yet we ourselves know, from our mutual experiences in our communities, that shunning, shaming and cutting off both drug victims and drug trade elements from a second chance at reform and turning around their lives save no one in the end. We ourselves know, from our long, bitter struggle for justice and reparation in our sectors, that no solution is garnered unless a mutual acknowledgment of the dignity of our counterparts in litigation and negotiation is achieved. At the same time, we as well are aware of protecting the quality of life of our members and our allies—and are very, very wary of anyone who would dare foist easy solutions to us in the face of complex problems, at the cost of our principles and dearly-held freedoms.

We in the workers’ movement, coming as we are from all social and religious slants, see the value of transformative justice, as well as rehabilitating even our criminal elements.

With this statement, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference Philippines stands with an awakening larger majority of our Filipino people. They are now aware of the dangers of the government’s Death Policies — Oplan Tokhang, the bills reimposing the death penalty and lowering the age of criminality – that threaten to or have destroyed our institutions, granting us a “reign of peace” that is more the peace of the grave, cramped as they are with the skulls and bones of thousands of innocent and untried victims.

We in SENTRO therefore reiterate: the Death Policies of the Duterte regime must be stopped.

As much as we workers do not always share the political views of many of our religious groups, we nevertheless loudly proclaim our conviction with them right now: a civilization built on peace, justice and love.

Forward, not Backward: The Youth’s Statement on Human Rights Day

APL Youth

Today, as we celebrate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we, young Filipinos stand united in recognizing as regressive, anti-people, and anti-poor the Duterte administration’s policy of restoring the death penalty, lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR), and the vigilante-style “war on drugs.” This government’s policy runs contrary to President Duterte’s claim to genuine, forward, and transformative change that we demand.

On the Restoration of the Death Penalty

We vehemently condemn the move to restore capital punishment in the country through House Bill no. 1 for we believe that the purpose of criminal justice is to rehabilitate convicted criminals, that is to bring them closer to humanity even after having erred. We believe in a view of Justice that allows the person to reform and reintegrate as a changed person into society, one that affirms human dignity and the right to life.

We reject this policy for even if we consider the end goal of the measure of restoring capital punishment, that is to deter crime, the claim holds no scientific evidence. As research shows, the death penalty will not deter crime. On the contrary, in 1999, the bumper year for executions, the national crime volume, instead of abating, ironically increased by 15.3 percent or a total of 82,538 (from 71,527 crimes in the previous year). In addition, the Supreme Court released that 71.77 percent judicial error rate in capital cases in the period from 1993 to 2004, years when we still implemented the death penalty.

In addition, restoring the death penalty is a direct violation of international agreements ratified by the government. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” We believe that the act of murder, especially as it is rendered by State instruments must be condemned.

Further, women’s groups have been expressing that the death penalty deters victims-survivors, especially among children from reporting rape. Women fought for the abolition of death penalty, alongside human rights advocates for 20 years, only to be restored by this administration in a matter of months.

We believe that in the end, this policy only puts already oppressed Filipinos in a more vulnerable position. When the poor are unable to afford effective attorneys during trial, they may not be able to make the most effective case for themselves. The majority remain at the losing end at the cost of a false promise of a lower crime rate.

Back in 2006, the government already repealed the death penalty (RA 9346). Let us not regress as a society by reinstating the death penalty, and inhumane retributive form of punishment.

On Lowering The Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR)

We strongly denounce the lowering of MACR which seeks to revert the MACR from 15 years old to 9 years old. The motion to criminalize children who are but victims of violence and exploitation neglects their dignity as persons. This undermines their human right to security — a right that is most essential especially with regard to their status as one of the most vulnerable sector in any society.

When the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act or JJWA (RA 9344) was enacted in 2006, the MACR was raised from 9 years old to 15 for the purposes of complying to the international standard that 9 years is an unacceptable age of criminal responsibility.

Children are dependent on adults for survival; their everyday activities are influenced by those who nurture and provide for their needs. The government recognizes this through RA 9344 as amended by RA 10630 that seeks to strengthen the juvenile justice welfare system in its commitment to always deliberate and enact motions that serve the best interests of Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL) throughout the justice process. However, the implementation of JJWA which House BIll No. 2 seeks to amend has been very weak: programs enacted in pursuant of the law are underfunded, government facilities for rehabilitation operate like jails, and incarcerated children are being subjected to inhumane conditions.

The prevalence of CICLs in the country is a manifestation of the incompetency of both the local and national government as well as of child custodians to provide a safe space for children. The move to lower MACR rejects the underlying issues why children are involved in criminal activity to begin with. House Bill No. 2, in seeking to divert the blame from the real problem seeks to make use of children as a scapegoat for the persisting socio-economic problems that only capitalize on their vulnerability. JJWA was crafted precisely to protect children from harmful elements and we owe its full implementation to them.

Ten years ago, RA 9344 was enacted partly to raise the MACR in order to reinforce the protection of children and now, there is an attempt to nullify that change. To scrap efforts to improve the country’s conditions will not pave way for progress. To return to the Philippines that was a decade ago is a backward notion of development; to revert the MACR from 15 years old to 9 is definitely not the way forward.

On the President’s “War on Drugs”

While drug traffickers deserve to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, we condemn the fact that the current campaign has taken on an arbitrary, discriminatory and anti-poor tone that has led to the deaths of thousands of poor Filipinos.

The President’s careless pronouncements calling for the indiscriminate killing of even suspected drug dependents all connected to drugs, emboldened the police to shoot and kill those who are suspected of using or selling drugs. Worse still, the President has also encouraged citizens to take matters into their own hands, which has heartened vigilantes to protect the streets, killing their fellow citizens. This has fortified a culture of violence of an unprecedented magnitude. Since the President has taken office, this cruel war on the poor has already taken 5,882 lives from 01 July 2016 to 06 December 2016.

The poor are easy targets in this war. Not only have structures in society forced the poor to resort to or sell drugs to escape the pains of day-to-day life, the poor also live in penetrable communities where armed people can easily enter, and safety is a daily concern. The poor also cannot afford the protection, legal and otherwise, that those of means can afford. To attest to this, Oplan Tokhang has been asymmetrically enforced—homes of the poor are searched through haphazardly, while gated villages are able to protect their residents from being searched or able to dictate the terms of the operation.

Most of all, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the blatant disregard for human rights that the President and his administration has exhibited time and time again. Drug dependency is not merely an issue of security or crime, but one of public health. Drug dependency can be addressed with rehabilitation, which in October 2016, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella has said is actually the new goal of its anti-drugs campaign. Despite this, many continue to be killed on the streets.

The state must not kill Filipinos, but aid them in improving their lives through a rehabilitative approach in order to let them move past their chemical and economic dependency on drug.

The change we demand

We the Filipino youth demand nothing less from the government than for it to recognize the fundamental human right to life– that is for the government to affirm that all have the right to live a life free from fear, to live a life worth living. Such cannot be attained through the Duterte administration’s myopic view of progress that takes the short route which in the end, does nothing but breed a culture of violence.

We demand that the government instead invest in youth development programs that provide opportunities for us young Filipinos to improve our lives and to develop our skills, a government that likewise seeks to increase our participation in institutions that affect our lives and the lives of others. We hope for programs that enable young people like us to dream of better solutions for our country.

We demand that this government stop its sexual attacks on women, especially those who are critical of it. The President and his men, who have been encouraging the rape culture and the treatment of women as objects, should be made accountable.

We demand that the government instead focus on social welfare measures that alleviate poverty which we recognize as the root cause of many of society’s ills, measures that should lead to the transformation of oppressive political, economic, and social structures towards structures that take the primacy of the fundamental human right to life.

With this view, we call on the Filipino youth to stand and fight! Let us demand accountability from President Duterte and reject his administration’s policies that bring us back to the old age of strongman dictatorship and the preponderance of vigilante-style extrajudicial killings. We shall continue to resist forms of change that lead to our regression as a society so as to assure our future and the future of our nation.

Sigaw ng kabataan: Pagbabagong pasulong, hindi paurong!
Itigil ang mga paatras na polisiya ng gobyerno ni Duterte!
Kilalanin ang karapatan sa buhay ng mamamayang Pilipino!

Alliance of Progressive Labor Youth (APL Youth-SENTRO) • Kilos Kabataan ng Ateneo
Union of Students for the Advancement of Democracy (USAD AdMU) • PUP SPEAK
Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE)
Marikina Polytechnic College Supreme Student Council (TINDIG-MPC) • Akbayan Youth

Defend the Right to Life, Resist Institutionalized Violence

Defend the Right to Life, Resist Institutionalized Violence

Attempts of the Duterte administration to link the drug trade with a supposed rebellion in Mindanao to justify a nationwide terror alert level 3, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, the railroading of the death penalty bill in Congress, lowering the age of criminal responsibility of children from 15 to nine (9) years old, revisions in the anti-wiretapping law, attacks on human rights values & principles, misogyny, derogation of the rule of law and due process, and death threats to human rights defenders, have revealed a dangerous political direction which the people must resist.

To date, at least 5,600 victims of extrajudicial killings and counting. The sustained social cleansing is desensitizing Filipinos from the sanctity of life and laying down conditions in which killings of any kind may be done with full impunity without any opposition.

President Rodrigo Duterte continues to leverage the solidification of support from state security forces and politicians which, reminiscent of the Marcos dictatorship, paves the way for the perpetration of atrocities against human rights defenders and political opponents. By pledging to protect Police Superintendent Marvin Marcos and other police officers found responsible by the NBI of murdering Albuera Leyte Mayor Espinosa, President Duterte espouses continued violence and disregard for due process among law enforcement operatives. He has consistently worked to entrench impunity in Philippine society.

With Duterte supporting Marcos, local official investigations into extrajudicial killings become all the more futile because criminals will not be held accountable in any way. Given that there is a 97% kill rate in police operations, and zero resolutions, investigations by international bodies become necessary to halt the killings. (Source)

As a Christmas present, the House of Representatives is railroading the passage of a bill to reintroduce capital punishment. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez proudly refers to it as “killing that goes through a process.” The proponents presented no concrete evidence that death penalty is able to curb crime or eliminate the illegal drug trade. Enforcement of death penalty by a corrupt and ineffective criminal justice system will only worsen criminality. Without addressing structural injustice, the death penalty becomes merely a tool which a despotic government uses to wipe out the poor and purge the “undesirables.”

Meanwhile the same proponents are rushing a similar draft legislation lowering the age of criminal liability of children from 15 years to nine (9) years old, making it gruesomely possible to mete out the death penalty on children. The bill to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility violates every fundamental principle of child protection and welfare reflected in all international treaties to which the Philippines is a party, contravenes every scientific, biological, psychological, neurological knowledge of the need to protect children from adult culpability, and again, fails to provide evidence that sending juveniles to their deaths solves criminality. Both measures are vehemently opposed by concerned government and non-government agencies, child rights advocates, international organizations, inter-parliamentary institutions and international human rights experts.

Like many poor countries, the Philippines trails behind in the state’s opinion and view of drug use. Both in policy and action, drug use is treated as a crime rather than an illness. This fact is clear cut in government drug rehabilitation programs being integrated into criminal justice institutions such as the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the Bureau of Corrections and the NBI. It is undesirable and unwise to penalize those who need to be cured from addiction and mix them with those who are serving jail time for harming others and are being deterred from committing further crimes. Duterte’s administration must focus on social justice- democratizing essential services so that all can have a way out of poverty. Fulfillment of economic, social and cultural rights, radical social reforms in the criminal justice system must take place, and the national drug policy must shift from punitive to a public health response separating drug dependents from those who are undergoing reforms due to having broken the law.

The rise of a new strongman in the Philippines tries to fit the pattern of a late dictator who had promised economic progress in place of freedom and democracy. In ordering the burial of Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, Duterte betrayed his real political loyalties. Now there is no doubt about how he will betray his promises on ENDO, land conversions, environment, corruption and the peace process with an emerging police state. Similarly, with sponsoring the Marcos burial, Duterte categorically gave impunity to dictatorial rule and the attendant killings, the number of which he now surpasses.

We attribute the rise of a ruthless but populist president to the successive administrations after the EDSA revolt, which have persistently deprived the most basic needs and services to the people. We have consistently engaged past administrations to adopt and apply a Human Rights Based Framework to Governance which could have narrowed the social inequality gap, minimized chronic poverty and malnutrition, offered education to the youth and provided a fighting chance for the poor majority to lead a life of dignity. A human rights based approach to governance is a fail-safe roadmap towards a fairer and more equitable system. These inequalities were capitalized on by the illogical appeal of the call for order and discipline as answer to mass frustration, reminiscent not only of Marcos but of tyrants around the world. “Sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan, Disiplina ang Kailangan.”

The work towards social justice, equality and sustainable development could only flourish in an environment of freedom, mutual respect and enhanced cooperation towards achieving the highest standards of values and principles for every citizen. This is not possible in today’s climate of fear, intimidation, sexism, authoritarianism. Therefore we must resist any and all attempts to derail the people’s democratic participation in public governance. Intelligent debates must flourish and not silenced. The people must be able to protest. The people must be able to exact accountability from the highest officials of the land, and end impunity once and for all.

End Endo, Not People’s Lives

End Endo, Not People's Lives

Nagkaisa Labor Coalition marching along Morayta to Mendiola – Photo by Eva Arcos

The Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) today marched from Welcome Rotonda to Mendiola, passing through Morayta to join other sectors who were in solidarity with the workers. In a statement, SENTRO said it marks the 153rd birth anniversary of Gat Andres Bonifacio, “founding predecessor of the Philippine mass movement and First President of the Philippine Republic by memorializing the heroic struggle of Bonifacio and the Katipunan in these trying times.” It added that SENTRO “looks back to our history of consistent action, and takes heart from it in continuing to carry the torch of seeking and advocating for economic and political justice for all.”

Josua Mata, Secretary-General of SENTRO, stated that six months into the presidency of Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the Philippines is now in a seething state of tension, division and political polarization. “For all his bluster, bravado and posturing in promising change since the May 2016 elections, he has only succeeded in worsening the social, economic and political gap between the privileged and the excluded in Philippine society,” added Mata.

The “war on drugs” Duterte has sanctioned continues to prove itself as a “war on the poor”—with 5,617 casualties. With a police hierarchy under PNP Chief Ronaldo “Bato” dela Rosa wholly subservient to the whims of the President, our police institutions, constitutionally-mandated to protect and serve the public from crime and violence, now glories in its role as the President’s praetorian guard of butchers and hatchet-men.

Mata stated that “the Duterte regime, proving its promise of standing up against the elites of Philippine society as full of hot air, has also visibly backtracked on its promise to dismantle the ‘endo’ system of contractualization in favor of the working peoples (both in the manufacturing and service sectors).” That the Labor Secretary, Silvestre Bello III, continues to vacillate between the just demands of the working peoples’ movements and the rapacious threats of the employers and capitalists, poses massive questions to whether this issue will actually be resolved in the name of social justice, the statement continued.

According to the 80,000-strong labor center, Duterte’s partisanship to the forces of oppression has finally surfaced by fully sanctioning the burial of the tyrant Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani last November 18, 2016—immediately 10 days after the craven decision of the Supreme Court to declare the absence of legal impediment to the burial, and without giving time to filing motions of consideration against the decision. “That this burial was done clandestinely, away from the eyes of the public and without any transparency whatsoever simply affirms once over that the heirs of the dictator Marcos has no intention of standing accountable for their two-decade ransacking of the Philippine state and society. The state-apparatuses are scrambling to continue justifying the actions of their clearly-beholden president—to the extent of inflaming the ire and resentment of the new generations of our youth.”

“The Filipino people are already waking up to the monumental costs of their choice in the polls,” according to SENTRO. “That mobilizations and indignation protests continue to be mounted by the millennial generation of today against the burial of the tyrant Marcos show that the administration is beginning to wear its welcome.” It says that even the President’s supporters are now beginning to be split in their condoning of the “war on drugs” suggests that this platform is unravelling without a clear end-goal in mind. “That a growing number of our population are now finding the perorations and propagandizing of the Duterte camp’s online “trolls” and unofficial spokespersons (all of dubious character and non-existent integrity) is a heartening sign that reason and basic decency have not yet left Philippine public discourse,” added Mata.

“That people are now finally choosing to stand up against the excesses of the Duterte regime after months of silence and patience simply mean one thing: They now know that their President is neither a father, nor a leader, nor a saviour. They now know he is a tyrant and a bully who cements his throne in blood and skulls. And we know from history how tyrants end their stories.”

Finally, SENTRO called on the Filipino people to remain vigilant and insistent on their social, economic and political rights.

“We call on the Philippine government to stand accountable for the growing number of dead and injured in their war on the poor. We call to a halt on political prosecution of opposition actors who are simply doing their job of protecting the Filipino people’s basic human rights. We continuously call for the exhumation of Marcos from his undeserved burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani. We also call on the Marcos family and their partisans to finally come clean, stop the propagandizing, and finally own up to and pay up for their countless crimes against the Filipino people. We continue to assert that the Duterte administration must abandon authoritarianism and finally think on behalf of all Filipino peoples—not just his intransigent, intolerant and oppressive patrons. Lest he reaps the wind.”


Bonifacio Day
November 30, 2016

Painted Women Performed Warrior Dance against Violence



To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, women with painted faces and bodies performed a warrior dance at noon today in Quezon City. Filling the streets around the World Scout Jamboree roundabout in Timog, the women denounced the violenceof the current administration, and the institutional violence that “kills” 14 women each day they are deprived of reproductive health services by the state.

According to the women, the Duterte administration’s violence include the drug-war killings, the killing of democracy through patronage of the Marcos burial at the heroes’ cemetery and sponsorship of the Marcos’s return to power, promotion of death penalty, criminalization of child delinquents, non-implementation of the Reproductive Health Law, and sexist attacks on women’s dignity.


“The spate of state-sanctioned killings exacerbated the trauma in women already reeling from impoverishment,” said Clarissa Militante, one of the leaders of World March of Women (WMW) and Focus on the Global South. Both groups are members of iDefend, a human rights network calling for a stop to the killings. According to iDefend, the number has reached over 5,000 and victimized are mostly poor families, leaving women widowed and children fatherless. Human rights groups are now overburdened with responding to psycho-social and legal needs of the families of survivors. “The encouragement of the killings by the President himself emboldened the police to directly take lives, as well as persecute women leaders who dare challenge this policy,” added Militante. She noted that the first human rights defender killed under the current administration is a woman environmental rights advocate, Gloria Capitan.

“The state’s facilitation of dictator Marcos’s burial similarly opened wounds in rape and torture victims among women, and those left behind by the disappeared during Martial Law,” according to Nilda Lagman-Sevilla, Co-Chair of the Familiies of Victims of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND). Ka Nilda’s brother, a human rights lawyer who vanished in 1977, is among the 882 desaparecidos under Martial Law. “President Duterte himself should account for this mistake, rectify it, and stop resuscitating a deposed authoritarian power,” she added.

Now, women are being abused online when identified to be protesting against the Marcos burial or critiquing the Duterte administration. It should be remembered that WMW leaders charged the current President with violation of the Magna Carta of Women and promotion of rape culture. Now, the same sexism is being perpetrated by legislators against Senator Leila De Lima, as well as by Marcos and Duterte followers against protesters, according to Jean Enriquez of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW-AP), WMW and iDefend. “Sexual harassment, sexist cyberbullying and rape cases brought to our attention rose in number with the coming to power of Duterte, bringing along Marcos with him,” said Enriquez. However, the women refuse to be cowed.

“We draw strength from our women ancestors who have resisted our subjugation as a people,” stated Nice Coronacion, leader of the youth section of the labour center SENTRO. “We cannot allow the resurgence of a terror state, and we are rising in defiance,” Coronacion added.

“The women vowed to fight for their rights to reproductive freedom, a life of dignity, and a safe and violence-free world for women and their families,” said Ana Maria Nemenzo of WomanHealth.

The women leaders underscored that the recent days after the Marcos burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani showed that silence and spread of lies which marked the entry to power of Pres. Duterte and re-emergence of the Marcoses, is now being countered by intelligent and truthful narratives, calls for justice and reason from human rights defenders and coming especially from young people in protest actions.

Also leading the symbolic dance as “Pintadas” were women from the Center for Migrant Advocacy, Foundation for Media Alternatives, Lilak (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights), Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), SARILAYA, WomanHealth, Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB), Idefend, Block Marcos, Coalition Against the Marcos Burial at LNMB (CAMB-LNMB), and individual women who heeded the call for the action online.

Those who were not able to come to the action painted their faces and posted selfies with hashtags #EndVAW, #WomenRising, #StopTheKillingsPh, #BlockMarcos and #Hukayin.