ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Civil society network: stop extrajudicial executions, "red tagging" and impunity

Monday, 12 April 2021 human rights   civil society   solidarity   extrajudicial killings   justice  

Manila (Agenzia Fides) - "The Catholic communities are really appalled and deplore the countless human rights violations and extrajudicial executions committed by government forces and stigmatize the prevailing culture of impunity in our country". This is what Father Aris Miranda, a Filipino Camillian priest, said in a meeting held online attended by various associations for the defense and monitoring of violated rights in the Philippines. The associations, including many Catholic communities, are part of an extensive international coalition that monitors, reports and raises its voice for the murders of people, indigenous leaders, lawyers, and activists by the police. Many victims are eliminated as alleged "communist rebels".
In the past few days, Msgr. Gerardo Alminaza, Bishop of San Carlos, had also publicly called for an end to the culture of impunity and welcomed the approval of a special bill, drawn up by some parliamentarians, which punishes "red-tagging", ie the practice of labeling as " terrorists" or "communists" individuals or organizations who criticize Duterte's government.
The bill n. 2121 of the Senate, known as the "Act Defining and Penalizing Red-tagging", punishes those who have been found guilty of "red-tagging" and prison sentences of up to 10 years. Legislation, the Bishop said, should guarantee freedom of speech and protect from persecution and murder those who criticize Duterte's government.
Fr. Miranda, member of "Promotion of Church People's Response" (PCPR), and the network of associations which includes, among others, the International Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) and the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace, recall the murder of nine Filipino activists, who were killed simultaneously in a police raid on March 7, just two days after President Rodrigo Duterte issued another appeal for the elimination of the "communist fighters in the Philippines". The raid took place in the southern provinces of Luzon (Laguna, Batangas, Cavite and Rizal).
"Those killed and arrested were labeled sympathizers or recruiters for the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. But - the Camillian recalls - they are not members of the communist group. Local and international human rights organizations, including the United Nations, have long stressed that all this is an incitement to violence".
"We ask - Father Miranda tells Fides - that all those arrested are released and that an independent and credible investigation into the simultaneous raids is conducted by Congress and the Commission for Human Rights (CHR) to identify those responsible. We also want the Supreme Court to take immediate action to prevent further search warrants or other judicial tools used to silence activists, political dissidents and government critics. We therefore call on the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court to deal with these cases, while the Task Force set up to put an end to the armed conflict must be abolished and the law on terrorism requested by Duterte eliminated".
A total of nine activists were killed and another six arrested on March 7, says Luciano Seller, spokesman for the Italian Philippine Friendship Association, one of the European organizations that attended the online meeting. Seller explains to Fides that the Committee, fighting for a just peace in the Philippines, "calls on the Italian Parliament to promote measures by the European Union for the resumption of peace talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of Philippines, interrupted by the Duterte government". (MG-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 12/4/2021)