17 November 2020

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) vehemently condemns the illegal arrest of Women Human Rights Defender (WHRD), Beatrice Betty Belen on Sunday, 25 October 2020 from her home in Kalinga Province in the Philippines.

A composite team from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Philippine National Police and Philippine Army came to the Western Uma and Lower Uma villages at 4:00 a.m. to search several houses, including that of Betty Belen, a leader of Innabuyog-Kalinga, the local chapter of Gabriela. Betty, her husband and her two children were led outside of their home before the search was conducted. The police later claimed they found firearms and explosives, and proceeded to arrest and detain Betty at the Tabuk City Jail. The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) said Betty has been placed in a cell with male detainees in violation of her human rights. Following the support of human rights lawyers, Betty is now moved to a separate detention cell.  

Betty played an integral role in APWLD BOOM Feminist Participatory Action Research in 2012-2014 for the resistance against the Geothermal project in Kalinga, Philippines. In 2018, Betty was awarded the Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan (Environmental Hero Award) for her sustained defense of their ancestral land from destruction by private companies. In 2012, she led a barricade against the Chevron Energy company’s geothermal power project in Kalinga province. We believe that Betty is being targeted for her history of work defending the rights of Indigenous women, particularly to their right to self determination over their ancestral lands, territories and resources, and to exercising their right to free, prior, and informed consent ahead of any development project. These are the fundamental human rights inherent to indigenous peoples recognised in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being.

Unlawful arrests and all forms of persecutions are a direct violation of the rights and protection of WHRDs and the work that they do. It is also in violation of the Philippines government’s international obligations to the UN General Assembly resolution which ‘calls upon all States to promote, translate and give full effect to the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, including by taking appropriate, robust and practical steps to protect women human rights defenders’. 

APWLD calls on the Government of the Republic of the Philippines:

  • To immediately drop all fabricated charges against Beatrice Betty Belen and release the indigenous women human rights defender immediately. 
  • To immediately stop red-tagging, any act of violence and harassment against women human rights defenders, indigenous and community leaders and political activists. 

To allow independent international human rights investigation as recommended by the report of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).