Phl ‘extremely dangerous’ for rights workers — report
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. —
Members of human rights group Karapatan stage a protest to condemn the killing of human rights defender Mariam Uy Acob in September last year.