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.