Demonizing the defense of human rights

The filing of perjury charges by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. against Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela is a vicious attack against the defense of human rights.

Let’s look at what these organizations have done.

Karapatan, RMP and Gabriela sought protection from the court amid the red tagging, vilification, death threats, arrest and detention and killings of their members. Unfortunately, the Court of Appeals dismissed their petitions for writ of amparo and writ of habeas data for alleged lack of substantial evidence. That is, after the justices refused to admit testimonial evidence and other documents from these organizations.

By going to the court and by exhausting other legal remedies, Karapatan, RMP and Gabriela have underscored the failure of the state to protect their basic rights. As a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the state has the obligation to protect the life, liberty and other civil and political rights of its citizens. The 1987 Philippine Constitution’s Bill of Rights is also very clear about the rights of ALL citizens – from freedom of expression, right to petition the government for redress of grievances, right to due process to right to life, liberty and property.

It should be pointed out that these organizations are being targeted for the invaluable work they do – the defense of human rights of the poor and marginalized.

Karapatan, since its founding in 1995, has been vocal against human rights violations perpetrated by state security forces in militarized communities. RMP, meanwhile, has pioneered the establishment of schools in indigenous peoples’ communities and has –for the past 50 years –provided other services to the rural poor often neglected by government. Gabriela, which turns 35 this year, has been a household name because of its consistent advocacy for women’s rights and welfare.

Demonizing these organizations seeks to undermine their advocacy and threaten our democracy. The Duterte administration attempts to destroy the credibility of all its perceived enemies, including the Church, the media and the opposition, so as to force its narratives down our throats. The most dangerous of which is the need for iron-first and bloodshed to impose peace and order. (This, of course, is a lie.)

When the state fails, nay, violates the rights of its citizens, we have all the right to do the right thing. (

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