Stand to Resist, Work to Defend
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.
The Human Rights Defenders World Summit 2018 comes at an opportune time when human rights defenders are at grave risks. They are being harassed, intimidated and sometimes imprisoned or even made to disappear, tortured and killed. They are specifically targeted due to their work in defending the people’s rights. Women human rights defenders pay a heavier toll, being vulnerable to sexual violence and other forms of abuse.
There are a numerous international laws and mechanisms purportedly created for the advancement of human rights but these are often found ineffective and inadequate in providing protection to those very people upholding and defending such laws and mechanisms. The lack of accountability for violations committed against them engenders a culture of stigma and fear.
The Philippines is a grim example. President Duterte’s vilifying pronouncements against human rights defenders, particularly threatening to abolish the Commission on Human Rights, persecuting opposition groups and tagging human rights defenders as "protector of criminals and terrorists" only further endanger the lives of human rights defenders.
The Philippine government’s war on drugs campaign is now tearing apart the fabric of democratic and human rights values of the Filipinos, ushering in a culture of violence where alleged drug users and pushers have become the scapegoats in the so-called fight against criminality in the country. Giving the police unfettered and unchecked power in implementing the war on drugs has only resurrected the remnant of the Martial Law regime where the state preyed on its own citizens. No wonder the Philippines was included in the recent UN Human Rights Council’s list of states that intimidate and retaliate against human rights defenders.
Protection of human rights defenders is imperative not only to enable them to perform their work without hindrance or undue restriction and to have freedom from fear of retribution but most importantly to hold those accountable to justice.
PAHRA once again calls on the Philippine government to recognize the role of human rights defenders in the country and ensure their protection by passing into law the Human Rights Defenders’ Protection Bill which conforms to the United Nations instrument. The bill, if signed into law, will provide legal obligations to the state to act as the primary protector of human rights defenders.
PAHRA salutes all human rights defenders around the world for providing the voice to the voiceless and the courage to the defenseless. We continue to strive to make human rights a reality for all by resisting state repression and working together to defend the remaining space in which we can better protect our people against state abuses.
PHILIPPINE ALLIANCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATES
OCTOBER 30, 2018