Tag Archives: In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDefend|)


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.


IDefend statement on anniversary of Marcos burial

IDefendOne year after the treacherous burial of a former dictator and a plunderer at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB), iDEFEND (In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement) continues to rage against the whitewash , if not, outright reversal of the bloody record of Marcos’ Martial Law.

The burial marks ground zero of Duterte’s design to amass further power, beyond that which is accorded to him by the 1987 Constitution.

Burying him in a cemetery of heroes does not make a hero out of a dictator. His act to bury a dictator in the LNMB, made legal by the Supreme Court, contravenes the Filipino people’s judgement of the Marcoses and their legacy of violence, plunder and corruption three decades ago.

President Duterte is resurrecting the dark days of the martial law by marking his first year with thousands of extrajudicial killings, allowing the entrenchment of new cronies and barrelling through with anti-people economic programs. Rather than promised change, these policies are designed to further exacerbate poverty and human insecurity.

A bloody dictator has no place in a democracy and a free people has every duty to defend a free society, repudiate despots and institutionalise human rights in all levels of society. Martial Law is unacceptable under any circumstance.

iDEFEND pursues its goal of governance that respects and promotes human rights and human dignity.


We condemn the declaration of Martial Law ! -iDEFEND

IDefendOn Tuesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte declared Martial Law on the entire Mindanao Island while on a state visit in Russia, following the fighting between the military and the Maute group.

It has to be clarified that the clashes were triggered by law enforcement operation in Marawi. This is a situation started by the government itself. Similarly, the Maute group is a local terrorist group, and not ISIS, even as the former tries to ally itself with ISIS.

We condemn the violence perpetrated by the Maute group to advance their political interest. Attacking civilian population not party to the conflict between government forces and the Maute violates duly recognized human rights of the people and violation of International Humanitarian Law on armed conflict.

While the fighting has endangered the life of civilians in the area, Martial Law does not alleviate this danger nor ensure the resolution of conflict and achievement of peace. Note that the National State of Emergency Due to Lawless Violence, declared after the Davao bombing, is still in place nationwide.

Martial Law adversely affects civilians as this would curtail many of their rights. Without Martial Law, the military has engaged and fought terrorist groups in Mindanao and can continue to do so as their obligation and mandate.

With Martial Law, the civil and political rights of the civilians, and their lives, are endangered more than ever. Confusion and insecurity among communities may be taken advantaged of by different armed groups, furthering the violence in Marawi, and the rest of Mindanao. Human rights abuses are bound to happen, especially under a presidency which has openly shown no respect for human rights. It could potentially endanger striking workers and other protesting activists in Mindanao.

The public has the right to be informed of the situation in Mindanao and as of the declaration of Martial Law, a lot of questions remained unanswered. Defense Secretary Lorenzana himself told media that “there is intelligence” about the situation in Marawi, but that this intel has been wrongly interpreted. If the situation in Marawi had to do with weaknesses in the execution of its job, Martial Law, and over the entire Mindanao Island, is NOT the answer to this shortcoming or failure.

The 1987 Constitution has limited the President’s powers to place the country or any part of it under martial law to two situations – invasion or rebellion – and only when the public safety requires it. Clearly, only compelling reasons must justify martial law. The current situation does not constitute sufficient factual basis for the proclamation of martial law or the potential suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.


SENTRO calls on Working People to Sustain the Call to End Contractualization, Stop Authoritarian Policies

Photo by RBanares

MANILA, Philippines (May 1, 2017) – The national labor center Sentro ng Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (Center for United and Progressive Workers), or SENTRO, calls on the working people to continue the struggle against contractualization and the precariousness of living, “sustained by the Duterte’s regime biased for the elite.”

In a rally this morning in conjunction with the 130thglobal Labor Day commemoration, the 100,000-strong SENTRO criticized the “fake news” that contractualization is over. According to SENTRO Secretary General Josua Mata, “We gave Pres. Duterte the benefit of the doubt on his promise to end the oppressive policy of labor contractualization, in hoping that Pres. Duterte will dismantle and replace the much-criticized Department Order No. 18-A.” He said their hopes were met with grim disillusionment with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello’s release of DO No. 174 last March 19, 2017.

Mata stated that DO 174 will perpetuate contractualization by: a) allowing businesses to hire workers through agencies; b) allowing cooperatives to engage in labor contracting and subcontracting; c) no longer requiring the principal employer to provide unions a copy of the service contract; and d) allowing contracting agencies to further downplay the price of labor costs—guaranteeing even lower salaries and benefits for workers across industries. “Clearly, DO 174 widely differs from what Pres. Duterte has promised,” said Mata.

SENTRO assailed the President from being only true to its promise to kill, and to bury the late dictator Marcos at the Heroes Cemetery. In a statement, SENTRO noted that in almost 365 days in Malacañang, the President’s hands are bloodied in calling on the police, and later jobless migrant workers to kill drug users. However, it failed to deliver genuine resolution of the drug problem as it allows the escape of drug traffickers like Peter Lim.

SENTRO marched from Welcome Rotonda and converged with the 10,000 marchers of NAGKAISA Coalition to push Pres. Duterte to prioritize the prohibition of all forms of contractualization by supplanting DO 174 with an Executive Order and by certifying as urgent the passage of HB4444.

Allies from human rights groups such as iDEFEND, the World March of Women, and students marched with the workers to call on all “freedom-loving Filipinos to stand up and be counted in the fight for regular and sustainable jobs, to stop the killings, block Duterte’s Death Policies – the reimposition of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminality – and to resist moves to amend the constitution to institute “constitutional authoritarianism.” The march followed a coffin with a chick on top, a derivation from a Filipino custom, hoping that the deaths will stop immediately.

“Let us assert our basic right to a dignified and genuinely safe society—not the selective security of the privileged that preys on the massacre of the poor,” added Mata.

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.