Press Release: Woman Human Rights Defender Threatened By Military in Philippines
06 August, 2017
Chiang Mai, Thailand
We express deep concern for the security of woman human rights defender Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General, who is facing threats, harassment and intimidation from suspected State security forces in Philippines.
On July 20th, 2017, at around 10:20 PM, Cristina Palabay received a threatening call from a man who repeatedly asked her name and then demanded that she stop what she is doing because “times have changed” as “martial law is in place”. He further threatened that her name is currently on a ‘list’ of people considered courageous and that she is within his “AOR” (interpreted to mean Area of Responsibility). He accused Palabay of being involved in the alleged ambush of the Presidential Security Group by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao. Palabay denied knowledge and involvement in the reported incident, as she was in Manila leading the preparations for protest actions in time for the State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte and his extension of the martial law declaration in Mindanao. She was also repeatedly asked on her whereabouts and was asked to be cautious. After further investigation by netizens, they traced the cellphone number of the caller and found that it belonged to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Safety Battalion.
Kate Lappin, Regional Coordinator of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) said, “We demand an immediate investigation of the incident to be conducted by an independent body. We also call for an end to the Duterte administration’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan which encourages (and allows) State security forces to threaten, harass and intimidate activists, community leaders and civilians. We reiterate our previous call to lift Martial Law in Mindanao. It is concerning that threats against Tinay and other WHRDs are now made worse because of continuing militarist and fascist policies. We fear that the current political situation is a prelude to a nationwide martial law .”
The steady and alarming trend is that many human rights and environmental defenders are at the receiving end of threats from military agents as the former conducts advocacy for people’s rights and struggles. “As a signatory to various international human rights instruments, the Philippines is obligated to ensure the safety and protection of human rights defenders and must immediately institute measures to put an end to a crackdown against them by State security forces. The attack on human rights defenders emboldens officials to make threats with impunity. It is a strategy to silence voices exposing human rights violations and the devastating impacts of big corporate projects on the environment. To afford specific protection to human rights defenders, it is also high time for the Philippines to pass a national law for the protection of human rights defenders,” said Joms Salvador, Secretary General of GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women and Regional Council member of APWLD.
We urge the Philippine Government to adhere and respect the Philippine Constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all major Human Rights instruments that it is a party to, especially those that guarantee the right to life, liberty and security at all times. We remind the Government that it voted in favour of the UN General Assembly resolution on ‘Recognizing the role of human rights defenders and the need for their protection’. We also remind the Government to pursue its commitments under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which includes the right to freedom of thought and expression, freedom of conscience, political and religious beliefs and practices and the right not to be punished or held accountable for the exercise of these rights, and the right to free speech, press, association and assembly.
About Cristina Palabay
Cristina Palabay is an independent observer in the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Government of the Republic of the Philippine and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines on the peace agreement on human rights and international humanitarian law. She is a member of an organizing committee of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), an advisor to the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Rights (UAF), and KARAPATAN’s representative to the international coordinating group led by Front Line Defenders on the global campaign to stop the killings of human rights defenders. As Secretary General of KARAPATAN, she leads in engaging with international bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Council and the European Union Parliament.
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), a leading network of feminist organisations and grassroots activists in Asia Pacific. Our 211 members represent groups of diverse women from 26 countries in Asia Pacific. Over the past 30 years, APWLD has actively worked towards advancing women’s human rights and development justice. We are an independent, non-governmental, non-profit organisation and hold consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. F:apwld.ngo T:@apwld
Read the Letter To The Philippines Government.
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