Phl ‘ex­tremely dan­ger­ous’ for rights work­ers — re­port

The Freeman - - NATION - 'TER­ROR' TAG

MANILA — The work­ing en­vi­ron­ment in the coun­try has been es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing for de­fend­ers of land, indige­nous peo­ples' and en­vi­ron­men­tal rights, a re­port by Dublin-based hu­man rights or­ga­ni­za­tion Front Line De­fend­ers said.

At least 39 rights ad­vo­cates were killed in the Philip­pines last year, Front Line De­fend­ers, which fo­cuses on hu­man rights work­ers at risk, said in its Global Anal­y­sis 2018, which was re­leased ear­lier this month.

“Although there were fewer HRDs killed in 2018 com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year in the Philip­pines, the coun­try re­mains an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous work­ing en­vi­ron­ment for de­fend­ers of land, indige­nous peo­ples and en­vi­ron­men­tal rights,” the or­ga­ni­za­tion said.

At least 60 hu­man rights ad­vo­cates were killed in the Philip­pines in 2017, ac­cord­ing to an ear­lier re­port of Front Line De­fend­ers.

In De­cem­ber, re­spond­ing to a call by a UN spe­cial rap­por­teur for the gov­ern­ment to end at­tacks on rights de­fend­ers, pres­i­den­tial spokesman Sal­vador Panelo claimed that "or­ga­ni­za­tions pre­sent­ing them­selves as so-called hu­man rights de­fend­ers never had it so good un­der the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion."

It noted that most of the killings were linked to strug­gles against min­ing and other ex­trac­tive in­dus­tries.

“De­fend­ers work­ing on land and en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues across Asia con­tin­ued to be one of the most atrisk groups of HRDs and tar­geted by mul­ti­ple ac­tors, in­clud­ing states, com­pa­nies, lo­cal vested in­ter­est groups and paid thugs. HRDs have been killed, evicted, hit with trumped-up charges and in­tim­i­dated and ha­rassed in dif­fer­ent ways,” Front Line De­fend­ers said.

Front Line De­fend­ers, more­over, stressed that brand­ing of hu­man rights de­fend­ers as ter­ror­ists was one of the tac­tics used to si­lence rights work­ers, cit­ing the gov­ern­ment pe­ti­tion to la­bel more than 600 peo­ple ac­cused as mem­bers of the Com­mu­nist Party of the Philip­pines as ter­ror­ists un­der the Hu­man Se­cu­rity Act of 2007

At least 80 rec­og­nized hu­man rights de­fend­ers, indige­nous peo­ples’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tions were on the list, UN said.

The De­part­ment of Jus­tice has since, in an amended pe­ti­tion, dras­ti­cally cut down the num­ber of sup­posed com­mu­nist ter­ror­ists on its list. It filed an amended pe­ti­tion after a Manila judge cleared four peo­ple of in­volve­ment in the com­mu­nist move­ment.

“This type of la­bel­ing is es­pe­cially dan­ger­ous in the Philip­pines where the killing of ac­tivists al­leged to be in­volved with the New Peo­ple’s Army has in­creased un­der Pres­i­dent Duterte and is gen­er­ally met with im­punity,” the Dublin­based rights or­ga­ni­za­tion said. —

FILE PHOTO

Mem­bers of hu­man rights group Kara­p­atan stage a protest to con­demn the killing of hu­man rights de­fender Mariam Uy Acob in Sep­tem­ber last year.

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