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

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.

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.

Women and Workers Outraged by SC Decision on Marcos Burial

Marcos not a hero

Women and worker activists held a noise barrage in Quezon City this evening to express their outrage over the Supreme Court’s decision to bury the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

The groups World March of Women (WMW), Sentro ng Progresibo at Nagkakaisang Manggagawa (SENTRO) and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) have been rallying to oppose President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to bury Marcos in the hero’s cemetery.

“We shall never forget this day. The decision of the SC is a grave insult to the memory of those who died under Marcos rule,” according to Jelen Paclarin, Executive Director of the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB). “The burial of Marcos in LNB is the death of justice – as the remains of the Dictator shall be laid in the ground, so shall what remained of hope and our faith in the justice system.” The group asserted that Marcos is not a hero, but a dictator who brought upon atrocities and suffering to the country and the Filipino people can never be called a hero.

Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, expressed that the SC decision tramples on the sacrifices of all trade unionists whose lives were taken in fighting the Marcos dictatorship. “This is another nail on the cross of democracy in the country,” added Mata.

“We fought the Marcos dictatorship fiercely and sacrificed our youth so that our children will live free from fascism,” stated Jean Enriquez, Philippine Coordinator of the WMW. “But President Duterte would rather fulfill his campaign promises to the Marcos family, which left the democratic forces with no recourse but to file petitions at the Supreme Court,” she added. They vowed to continue resisting the grave abuse of discretion by the president in ordering the Marcos burial at the heroes’ cemetery, despite the SC failing them.

“This SC decision does not represent the position of the thousands of Filipino people who have lived, experienced and understood the horrors during the Marcos dictatorship, said Judy Pasimio, Executive Director of Lilak (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights). “Our resistance to the burying of truth and that tragic part of our history will continue,” she added. The group noted that indigenous and Moro people have been severely abused during the Marcos regime.

Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), Focus on the Global South, Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center, Foundation for Media Alternatives, Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality, iDefend, and the Coalition Against Marcos Burial petitioners were part of the action.