Dear Honourable Chairperson Deloso-Montalla,
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) writes this Open Letter to the House of Representatives Committee on Human Rights in the Philippines to emphasise the importance of enacting provisions to protect human rights defenders (HRDs) under the domestic legal framework.
Providing protection to HRDs under the national legal framework is necessary to protect those that are targeted for their legitimate human rights work. From January 2017 to July 2018, FORUM-ASIA documented 40 emblematic cases of attacks, intimidation and harassment against defenders in the Philippines. Among these cases, 18 were killings of HRDs – mostly journalists, and land and environmental rights defenders. Perpetrators are often not brought to account, and impunity of security forces is prevailing in the country.
Former first lady and Ilocos Norte representative Imelda R. Marcos has been convicted by the Sandiganbayan of seven counts of graft during her term in the cabinet of her husband the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos from 1965 to 1986. Marcos, 89, was sentenced to a minimum of 42 years in prison.
The judgement may be a cause for celebration if not for the pervading political environment in the Philippines which enabled the rehabilitation of the Marcos’ family legacy via the late dictator’s burial in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the running election protest of Bongbong Marcos before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal versus Vice President Leni Robredo, and the involvement of Imee Marcos in fraudulent purchasing transactions using tobacco excise taxes.
The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) congratulates the more than 150 human rights defenders from around the world who are now gathering in Paris to renew the commitment to advance human rights, and to fight against tyranny repression, and discrimination.
It has been twenty years since the rights and duties of human rights defenders have been recognized and guaranteed under international laws with the adoption of the 1998 United National Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms). They are those who dare to stand up for what is right, speak out against abuse, denounce violations, demand action, fight for a better world. in peaceful and non-violent means.