The Panaghiusa Philippine Network welcomed the UN experts’ action to seek an explanation from the Marcos Jr. administration “over allegations of judicial harassment, red-tagging, office raids, and targeted financial sanctions against religious groups, human rights, indigenous and humanitarian organizations, human rights defenders, Indigenous Peoples, journalists, and lawyers in the name of countering terrorism and terrorist financing.” Tantamount to weaponizing the law, specifically counter-terror laws, against the Filipino people continues to be of grave concern and has restricted many well-meaning people to their civil liberties.
On October 10, 2023, the United Nations Special Rapporteurs (UNSR) sent a letter to Marcos Jr.'s government, bringing attention to the numerous human rights violations in the Philippines. Signed by the UNSR on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, SR on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, SR on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, SR on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, SR on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and SR on Freedom of Religion or Belief, they raised serious concerns regarding the implementation of the Anti-Terrorism Act, Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012, and Executive Order 68 of 2018 or the adoption of the National Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Strategy and Creation of the National AML/CFT Coordinating Committee.
The UN Experts questioned the government on the terrorist designation of the following CPA leaders: Jennifer Awingan‐Taggaoa, Windel Bolinget, Stephen Tauli, and Sarah Abellon Alikes. These Indigenous leaders and human rights defenders' movements, advocacies, and the communities they serve were greatly affected due to the false charges against them.
Panaghiusa affirms the UN Experts' statement that “multiple religious organizations and their members, as well as other direct service non-profit organizations[,] have been affected by the alleged measures, in turn hindering access to Indigenous Peoples, internally displaced persons, human rights defenders, and women and children to critical human rights and humanitarian services.” The Philippine government has long denied the IPs access to social services yet, with its terrorist-labeling and unjust freezing of accounts of those few who extend service to indigenous communities, has led to the even greater precariousness of IPs and support groups.
The Special Rapporteurs urge the government to take all necessary measures to stop the violations, prevent their re-emergence, and rectify the allegations to ensure accountability of any individual/s involved in the violations against the victims. They also asked the government to respond within 60 days. Any response from the government will be publicly available along with the letter presented to the Human Rights Council.
The Special Rapporteurs' action results from the continuous and open dialogues and steadfast campaigns with and by IPs and advocates. Through solidarity and united efforts, the Indigenous Peoples' struggles are brought to the forefront in the global arena where their causes still need to be properly addressed in the country, and in fact, their rights continue to be neglected and violated.
The SR reports give weight and call urgent attention to the challenges that IPs in the Philippines face. These reports enumerate a few of the many IP struggles. Panaghiusa reiterates its call for the government to address human rights violations against Indigenous Peoples and to respect and protect IPs’ rights to say no to projects that are inimical to their lifeways and the environment.
The Panaghiusa Philippine Network is a broad network of Indigenous Peoples’ organizations and support groups in the Philippines. It works to defend Indigenous Peoples (IP) rights, strengthen the campaign for justice for victims of criminalization and other human rights violations (HRVs) against IPs, and call to end the culture of impunity that persists in the Philippines. It envisions a nation that recognizes, respects and protects IPs’ rights to ancestral domains, self-determination, and life.
Communications and Networking Officer
Panaghiusa Philippine Network to Uphold Indigenous Peoples' Rights
Copy of the letter: