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DFA funding regulation an affront to the freedom to defend human rights

Statement on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the EDSA People’s Revolt

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs wants all financial support to non-government organizations (NGOs) by foreign governments to be coursed through it to prevent the possibility of the funds being used for terrorist activities. The written order was issued this month although DFA Secretary Locsin already revealed to the media in 2019 that failure to follow this instruction may lead to the abrogation of the NGOs’ SEC registration.

This is the latest effort of government to disenfranchise legitimate civil society organizations of their means to defend human rights, provide assistance to communities and support marginalized and vulnerable sectors. Curtailing access to financial assistance comprises one of the worst repressions against human rights defenders. It puts at risk many of their critical services and debilitates democratic spaces.

The DFA regulation is disguised as a counter-terrorism measure when in fact it targets almost exclusively civil society groups who are critical of government policies- from the war on drugs to its COVID19 response- whom President Duterte has tagged as terrorist fronts. It implements parts of the Executive Order No. 70, issued by Duterte on December 2018, “Instituting the Whole-of-Nation Approach in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict”; combined with terrorist tagging by the AFP, PNP and DND, fake news and misinformation; violent dispersals of mass actions, and the arrests and killing of human rights defenders, the Executive Order aims to flatten the field towards the establishment of totalitarian rule by a criminal minded despot.

On the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the EDSA people’s revolt we commemorate the decades long struggle of our people for freedom and democracy, which continue to be abrogated by the elite and powerful at the expense of the suffering majority. We recognize the deep injustices that pervade in Philippine society which are silenced by the shrinking of civic spaces and the curtailment of dissent. We honor those that fight for real change and a life of dignity for everyone. Our resolve grows ever stronger on this occasion, to take up the challenge of the people’s revolt, to resist dictatorship, exact accountability and to defend human rights.