Karapatan slams red-tagging of Satur, Castro and human rights defenders

“The recent tirades and red-tagging of President Duterte and AFP Chief Carlito Galvez against Ka Satur Ocampo, ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro, the Lumad schools’ teachers and students, and several people’s organizations only prove their propensity to promote State terrorism. Instead of welcoming efforts to augment the severely inadequate education needs of indigenous children and to ensure their safety and security, Duterte and Galvez engage in baseless allegations and attacks to hide the government’s inability to provide comprehensive, adequate and appropriate education for the Lumad children,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, in reaction to recent statements by Duterte and Galvez alleging that the aforementioned are “members” of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
 

 
“These worn-out allegations are not only false, but have more dangerously led to worse violations, including killings and disappearances, of human rights defenders and political dissenters who have been previously tagged as such,” she added.
 
Karapatan cited the killing of Lumad student Obello Bay-ao in Talaingod, Davao del Norte in September 2017 and the massacre of two Lumad leaders and a school executive in Lianga, Surigao in September 2015. Members of the paramilitary group Alamara were indicted in the murder of Bay-ao, and are still at-large, while paramilitary members responsible for the Lianga massacre are yet to be arrested despite government propaganda that they have turned “rebel surrenderees” and have thus received compensation in exchange.
 
Atty. Benjamin Ramos and the nine farm workers who are members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) in Sagay, Negros Occidental experienced the same forms of harassment. Before their killing, the AFP have tagged NFSW as a “communist fronts” due to its land cultivation campaigns in Negros, while flyers and posters from the Philippine National Police tagging Ramos as a “communist personality” were disseminated in communities.
 
“All of them, as well as others victimized in the course of government’s counterinsurgency campaigns to pave the way for implementation of anti-people projects and businesses, were red-tagged, surveilled, harassed, threatened, slapped with trumped up charges, and then killed or disappeared. The pattern of such violations is all too familiar. If anything worse happens to any of these individuals and groups, we will be holding Duterte and the AFP accountable for these attacks. There can be no other culprits,” Palabay said.
 
Redtagging is to be criminalized in the proposed bill on human rights defenders
 
In a hearing at the House of Representatives yesterday, December 4, 2018, the Committee on Human Rights led by its Chairperson Rep. Cheryl Deloso-Montalla approved a bill for the recognition and protection of human rights defenders.
 
The substitute bill, a harmonised version of House Bills 1617 and 8128 authored by Reps. Carlos Zarate, Ariel Casilao, Sarah Elago, Antonio Tinio, France Castro, Emmi de Jesus, Arlene Brosas and Edcel Lagman, was deliberated upon and passed, eleven years after the first proposed bill on human rights defenders was filed by former Rep. Satur Ocampo and other legislators in 2007.
 
The measure outlines the rights of human rights defenders against red-tagging, vilification, threats, harassment, judicial harassment and other violations. It also established the obligation of State actors in exercising extraordinary diligence in investigating reports of such violations, as well as the accompanying penalties on State actors who will violate the rights of HRDs.
 
Aside from the endorsement of organizations such as Karapatan, the National Council of Churches of the Philippines, National Union of Peoples Lawyers, ASCENT, Masipag, the Philippine Network on Food Sovereignty, and Kalikasan, both measures were supported by international human rights organizations, who sent endorsement letters to the Committee, such as Front Line Defenders, Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Earth Rights International, Forum Asia, Action Solidarite Tiers Monde and the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development.