09 March, 2020
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) condemns the continuous judicial harassment and persecution of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) and political activists in the Philippines.
In December 2019, the Supreme Court of the Philippines dismissed the perjury charges against ten activists of KARAPATAN, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Gabriela following APWLD’s letter of appeal dated 27 September 2019.
We are enraged by the Court’s motion on February 24 to revive the dismissed perjury charges targeting ten activists, namely: Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Joan May Salvador, Gertrudes Libang Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Edita Burgos, Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol, Jose Mari Callueng and Sr. Emma Cupin. The appeal was filed by National Security Adviser Hormogenes Esperon and granted by Quezon City Prosecutor Vimar Barcellano.
We reiterate that these perjury charges are based on unfounded claims, and serve only to politically persecute and judicially harass activists and WHRDs. The current government for several years now has steadily used abusive litigation, judicial harassment and red-tagging as a means to silence and threaten any form of dissent from marginalised sectors in the Philippines, who bravely stand for democracy, human rights, justice and adherence to the rule of law. We denounce the judicial harassment of WHRDs in all scenarios and stand in strong solidarity with KARAPATAN, GABRIELA, and RMP.
These perjury charges, unlawful arrests, and all forms of persecution are a direct violation of the rights and protection of W/HRDs and the work that they do. It also goes against the Philippine Government’s international obligations to the following UN resolutions: rights recognised in the most recent UN General Assembly resolution on Promotion of 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: protecting women human rights defenders, adopted by the General Assembly on 18 December 2013 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’; as well as the UN General Assembly Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted unanimously in 1998, which clearly states that, for ‘the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels’.
APWLD, as a membership-based organisation, acknowledges our longstanding associations particularly with Cristina Palabay, Elisa Tita Lubi (both of KARAPATAN), and Joan M Salvador (Gabriela). Palabay and Salvador currently serve on APWLD’s Regional Council (highest governing body) and we are alarmed that our members are subjected to these unfounded charges that threaten their safety for the work they do to defend human rights, justice, dignity, freedoms and democracy. We are proud to have their leadership and that of their organisations over the years.
Yesterday was International Women’s Day, a day when women over generations have risen up and protested, putting their lives at risk to defend their human rights and fundamental freedoms that should be protected but not denied by their governments.
APWLD calls on:
- The Supreme Court of the Philippines, Department of Justice, and Office of the City Prosecutor, Quezon City to dismiss all the recommencement of perjury charges lodged against KARAPATAN, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and GABRIELA, and to take immediate decisive actions to ensure that Philippines civil society do not continually have to face these forms of judicial harassment.
- The Judiciary to defend human rights and fundamental freedoms of these courageous Women Human Rights Defenders and immediately drop all charges against them. They deserve honour and justice, not judicial harassment.
- Supreme Court of the Philippines to immediately implement the protective writ of amparo and habeas data previously issued for all of the targeted Women Human Rights Defenders, who are now facing the same perjury charges again as judicial harassment.
- The Philippines Government to immediately stop any act of violence and harassment against women human rights defenders and political activists, bring perpetrators to account, and ensure access to justice and remedies to those who have been targeted for their human rights work.