Karapatan to DOJ Sec Guevarra: Your irresponsibility is endangering lives

On August 6, in a budget hearing at the House of Representatives, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra admitted that the DOJ did not personally verify information before tagging 649 people in the petition to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations. Guevarra further added that the names and aliases all came from the intelligence units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“The justice department, in its ironic role as propagators of injustice, has deliberately endangered the lives of activists and rights defenders. It has failed to ascertain the veracity of the information given to them, and even actively took part in breeding further misinformation against those in the list,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Karapatan already raised qualms on the integrity of the list, and questioned the real motive behind the proscription petition. The rights group earlier condemned the listing of more than 600 persons, including human rights defenders and critics of the Duterte government in the proscription petition filed by the DOJ, through Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Peter Ong, at a regional trial court in Manila on February 21, 2018.

The rights group noted that the list is severely defective as it included hundreds of aliases, names of dead and missing individuals, and even paramilitary members responsible for killing and harassing indigenous communities in Mindanao.

Palabay also pointed out that “this regime has a rabid obsession to criminalize political dissenters, using all the tricks up its sleeve. From the AFP, the PNP, the DOJ, the courts, and other State actors, it is crystal clear that there is an organized, systematic scheme to silence critics while amplifying the noise from this regime’s fanatics.”

The Karapatan official emphasized that many have already been endangered because of such lists, recalling the Arroyo regime’s Order of Battle list and the same kind of list drawn up under Noynoy Aquino which led to the arrest, torture and killing of individuals. “Such lists carry an attempt to frame individuals and condition the public that they are criminals and “enemies of the State”, thereby inviting rights violators to inflict harm on them,” she said.

“Isn’t this an admission of irresponsibility and proof that the list has no basis? We thus demand that the DOJ immediately junk the entire petition. We remind the Duterte regime that activism is not terrorism, and rights defenders are clearly within their rights to protest, form and join organizations, and criticize the government for its anti-people policies,” Palabay concluded.