Government’s keyboard warriors have reached a new level of low following malicious attacks vs activists - Karapatan

“It is no secret that the Duterte regime has weaponized social media to spread false information about the government’s so-called achievements and subsequently malign rights defenders and critics. These days, the attacks have reached a new level of filth, with activists not only branded as “terrorists” but also even capitalizing on utterly false and malicious rumors. A woman human rights defender from the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA) has been falsely and maliciously accused as a “mistress of a local politician” while another environmental advocate was tagged “kotong Lord of Ilocos.” These foul attacks are being done in a desperate attempt to malign the work of the defenders and lay the predicate for worse attacks against them,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Palabay cited the cases of woman activist Mary Ann Gabayan, Secretary General of IHRA, chapter of Karapatan in Region 1, and Defend Ilocos coordinator Sherwin De Vera. On October 11, 2018, anonymous pages and accounts in social media circulated malicious posts. The accounts were clearly created for the specific reason of targeting and red-tagging individuals. Gabayan was maliciously accused as a “mistress” while De Vera was tagged as a “terrorist” and “kotong Lord.” The accounts are believed to be operated by State agents.


(Photo: Screenshots of the malicious posts against Mary Ann Gabayan and Sherwin De Vera)

“Such false information can only come from government forces whose convoluted minds have churned out one unbelievable story after the other. Gabayan and De Vera are human rights defenders who have worked alongside marginalized sectors throughout various governments. They have exposed rights abuses not only during the time of Duterte, but also previous regimes. Their record, as well as that of their organizations, speak for themselves.  Unlike the seemingly faceless perpetrators of these violations, no doubt backed by this repressive government, human rights defenders are courageously immersing in communities and continuing their work despite the risks they face,” Palabay added. 

The Karapatan official also mentioned the text messages being circulated by anonymous numbers, tagging members of Karapatan Cagayan Valley as “terrorists”, and using the term “bakla” and “tomboy” to describe officers of the organization in a derogatory sense. “Oo nga kasi pareho kayo ni (name not included for security purposes) bakla, iba naman tomboy,” the text message contained.

“These verbal attacks speak more about the people behind them. By resorting to forms of malicious and derogatory attacks laced with sexist remarks, these perpetrators are exposing that they are moronic machos,” Palabay emphasized.

Palabay observed a spike in attacks against activists, not only online but also offline. “Tied to the “Red October plot” and the whole gamut of repressive policies peddled by the Duterte regime, foremost its counterinsurgency campaign and the drug war, rights defenders have become more vulnerable to attacks. However, despite such a hostile environment for rights defenders to continue their work, we persist,” she ended. 

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580