By Chito Chavez
Militant human rights groups Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and Kabataan Partylist on Tuesday filed complaints at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to denounce the red-tagging and terrorist-labeling of their respective organizations.
Karapatan, a national human rights organization established in 1995, claimed it has been a constant target of counter-insurgency programs implemented by past regimes and increasingly by the Duterte government.
In the letter submitted to CHR Chairperson Jose Luis Gascon, Karapatan noted that “these attacks come in a myriad of forms, but altogether has put the lives, security, and liberty of the organization’s national and regional chapters and members at grave risk’’.
Karapatan deputy secretary-general Roneo Clamor emphasized that the “red-tagging and terrorist-labeling of Karapatan have become a standard practice of the government, becoming more brazen by the day.”
“There is substantial basis for all of us to be alarmed, what with the Duterte government’s staggering disregard for human rights and its advocates. At least 47 human rights workers of Karapatan have already been killed since 2001, making us conscious and sentient of how vicious and vindictive governments can be against organizations who work to expose the deteriorating human rights situation in the country,’’ Clamor said.
In continuing its human rights advocacy, Clamor said Karapatan is “exhausting all platforms for redress of grievances’’.
He noted the CHR complaint and their engagements with the UN are part of the measures “we are undertaking to end these attacks, to exact accountability, and to protect our courageous human rights advocates on the ground”.
Clamor said the complaint submitted to CHR contained numerous evidence on the consistent, targeted and systematic efforts against Karapatan and its human rights workers.
The organization cited the previous speeches of President Duterte openly tagging Karapatan as a “communist front and terrorist organization” in 2018.
“Furthermore, Karapatan mentioned tarpaulins hanged in public places with the message: “Karapatan at CPP-NPA ay iisa, at parehong terorista!” More recently, in February 2019, names of members of Karapatan and several other organizations who participated in a national solidarity mission were included in a flyer, which allegedly contained “terrorist members of the NPA and the CPP.” Those listed included names of church workers, lawyers, teachers, a journalist, and rights advocates,’’ Karapatan said.
“Suffice it to say, these are all cowardly, recycled, and cheap maneuvers. This is in stark contrast to the bravery and firmness in principle exemplified by the individuals and organizations targeted by this government,” Clamor added.
Clamor also added that the red-tagging and terrorist-labeling seemed to be the work of a national task force (NTF) created by President Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70 in December 2018.
He asserted the NTF’s mandate is centered on a “smear campaign against human rights organizations, courtesy of taxpayer’s money.
“Sending officials overseas to spread rumors and make unsubstantiated claims about organizations known to be critical of the Duterte government’s policies sets the bar high for desperation for damage control. It is an utter waste of the people’s resources,” Clamor said.
Clamor lamented the NTF has made rounds among diplomatic missions to red-tag specific organizations, particularly naming Karapatan and RMP as front organizations of the CPP and to label them as terrorists.
A video footage by media outfit PTV News 4 gave a report of the said meetings.
“The Duterte government seeks to erase its crimes by killing and threatening the people who dare shed light on these injustices. Duterte and his avid parrots are seriously peddling the lie that the government is the source of truth, and everyone else saying otherwise are incorrect, ignorant, are communists, destabilizers, or are terrorists. In our book however, it is clear who has killed more than 20,000 Filipinos in line with the drug war, indiscriminately bombed and displaced hundreds of thousands, threatened an estimate of 50,000, arrested hundreds using fabricated charges in line with its counterinsurgency program, and continues to perpetrate more rights violations against individuals and communities. We enjoin the CHR and all others to conduct a full-blown hearing on these insidious acts of the Duterte administration. It speaks so much of this government that it persecutes people for the exercise of their civil and political rights, and for thinking critically,” concluded Clamor.