Attacks on rights advocates continue in 2020 – CHR
MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) condemned on Sunday the persistence of what it called “violent attacks and unlawful harassment” against human rights advocates in the country since the new year began.
“In less than two months’ time in 2020, an alarming series of attacks against human rights defenders in the Philippines has been linked to elements of the government,” said CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia.
On Friday, a journalist and four rights activists in Tacloban City, now dubbed the Leyte 5, were arrested in raids conducted by Philippine National Police (PNP) officers and members of the Army and were charged with illegal possession of firearms.
Other cases cited by the CHR were the Jan. 19 disappearance of peasant organizers Emerito Pinza and Romy Candor in Laguna, the Feb. 3 killing of indigenous people leader-organizer Jay-ar Mercado in Oriental Mindoro, and the Feb. 5 arrest of Jennifer Agohob of the Union of People’s Lawyer in Mindanao and Karapatan.
According to CHR, these cases are also linked to members of the PNP and Philippine Army.
“Some government officials have tried to connect human rights defenders with communist groups and terrorist organizations among others to pursue a politically motivated defamation campaign against them,” said De Guia.
The CHR has dispatched teams to investigate the cases of what they call “human rights abuses.”
Appeal for a repeal
Meanwhile, the CHR seeks the repeal of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70, which is meant to combat counterinsurgency in the country through the creation of a national task force.
“We petition the government to rescind the policy as it has been consistently used to justify threats and intimidation of individuals and organizations working for the improvement of the human rights and welfare of various marginalized, disadvantaged, and vulnerable sectors of society,” said De Guia.
Under the EO, Duterte directed the adoption of a national peace framework institutionalizing the whole-of-nation approach in attaining an “inclusive and sustainable peace.”
The CHR also called on the government to strengthen its witness protection mechanisms “to inspire confidence and encourage victims and witnesses to provide testimony without fear of reprisals.”
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