By PhilRights Staff

Welcome to HR Insights, a weekly roundup of human rights news in the Philippines. This week…

Foreign Human Rights Activists Under Fire

An Australian nun with a long history of human rights activism in the Philippines and an Italian official of the EU Socialist Party became the latest targets of the government’s crackdown on human rights activists in the country.

Sr. Patricia Fox, a missionary and advocate of land reform, was taken into custody by the Bureau of Immigration on April 16 reported the Philippine Star. Sr. Pat, as she is known in the civil society community, has a long history of activism in the country. She is active with peasant groups and most recently participated in the just concluded International Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission in Mindanao that documented human rights violations in Davao del Norte and the Compostela Valley. She is now subject to deportation proceedings.

Concurrently, Italian Giacomo Filibeck of the Party of European Socialists (PES) was barred from entering the Philippines on the basis that he violated his tourist visa, according to a Rappler report. He is a fierce critic of Duterte based in Europe and was invited to join the Akbayan Partylist Congress which is a sister party of the PES. He was in the Philippines last October 2017 with other European human rights organizations to probe human rights abuses.

President Duterte later ranted in an Armed Forces of the Philippines ceremony on April 18 that he had ordered an investigation into Sr. Pat. On the same day, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra denied bias in their investigations into Sr. Pat and Filibeck. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque meanwhile defendedthe barring of Filibeck as the Philippines practicing its sovereignty.

Condemnation of these actions was swift. The In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) released a statement describing the persecution of both activists as “part of a much larger government ploy to put in place a machinery and practice that curtails civil and political liberties in order to effectively silence dissent, criticism and persecute critics.”

Former chair of Akbayan, Etta Rosales also condemned the government’s actions against both foreign activists.  Karapatan secretary general Tinay Palabay said that such persecution is indicative of Duterte’s guilt. Senator Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile, expressed alarm  over an “emerging trend on crackdown” against foreign activists.

For its part, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) reminds the government that foreign nationals should have due process and have the right to peaceful assembly. The Commission also said  that the arrest of Sr. Pat sets a dangerous precedent for human rights workers.

60 people including activists accused of being NPA members in Negros Occidental

SunStar reports that a poster with the names and faces of 60 people surfaced in the Negros Occidental town of Moises Padilla. The poster accuses them of being “CNN personalities,” meaning members of the CPP-NPA-NDFP.  The National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) alleges that it was the military and police of installing the posters.

Among the people tagged are a city councilor, a human rights activist, lawyers, members of political parties, and members of the NFSW. Several activists featured in the poster are also in the Department of Justice’s six-hundred-plus “terror list” released earlier this year, which includes the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria “Vicky” Tauli-Corpuz.

Both the PNP and the AFP have denied involvement in the formulation and posting of the list, according to SunStar. Juluis Dagatan, a local activist whose face is on the list, condemned the list as an attack on their lives and safety.

HRW: PNP’s Human Rights Record Under dela Rosa “unmatched since the Marcos dictatorship”

Outgoing Police Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa reportedly had “no regrets” in his commandeering of the country’s police forces, a sentiment he shared during the turnover process to incoming Police Director Albayalde. Human Rights Watch has said that dela Rosa should answer for human rights violations committed by the police under his watch, describing his human rights record  as “unmatched since the Marcos dictatorship.”  Dela Rosa has challenged activists to file charges against him.

MUST READ: Lumads’ Increasing Vulnerability in Martial Law Mindanao

Rina Chandran of the Thomson Reuters Foundation shares the story of a Lumad community in Mindanao in the face of continuing Martial Law. Her piece, published in ABS-CBN News, tells the story of tribe leader Tungig Mansumuy’s difficult decision for the community to flee their homes amid intensifying militarization in their areas.

Since its imposition, Martial law has exacerbated the vulnerabilities of Lumad communities with the Philippines being 2017’s most dangerous country in Asia for land and environment activists according to PAN Asia Pacific. Additionally, at least 60 tribal people have been killed since 2016. Lumad groups resisting mining and logging have also often been accused of being NPA, which opens them to attack by militias and the AFP.

Read Chandran’s illuminating piece here.

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