PHILIPPINES: Rights Groups, Branded as Communists, Fight to Preserve EU Funding

PHILIPPINES: Rights Groups, Branded as Communists, Fight to Preserve EU Funding
Credit: Michael Beltran
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Philippines rights groups allege the government is falsely branding them as communists in an effort to sever the funding they receive from the European Union.

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Philippine human rights groups and people’s organizations trooped to the Supreme Court offices to file a petition seeking protection from claims by the military that they are communist fronts.

Karapatan, women’s group Gabriela, and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) all sought a writ of amparo for their “life, liberty and security” and a writ of habeas data to surface and expunge state records with regards to accusations of rebellion made against the petitioners.

Attorney Josa Deinla of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), who assisted in the petition, explained: “The writ of amparo and habeas data is a form aid that the court can grant to those whose human rights are being violated. Specifically includes their right to life, liberty, security and privacy.”

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Credit: Michael Beltran
Representatives of rights groups stand outside the Supreme Court of the Philippines in Manila on May 3, 2019.

The lawyer also said that should the high court grant their petition, it could take many forms of “interim relief” – such as a temporary protection order, inspection order, or the destruction of records on the petitioners kept hidden by the state. These records could be used to justify other human rights violations.

The Supreme Court had decided last week in favor of NUPL, which had previously filed a similar petition as they had also faced accusations from the military. On Monday, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. General Edgardo Arevalo countered by declaring: “This does not mean that they have won. We are committed to presenting the court with the whole truth and refute their lies. We have strong evidence that will prove our claims.”

Another hearing at the court of appeals is set for May 14, with the AFP ready to state their case.

Last February, officials from the AFP met with the European Union to ask them to stop funding alleged communist front organizations: namely, Karapatan, Gabriela, RMP and indigenous peoples school ALCADEV. The EU responded by saying it would facilitate an independent audit of the accused groups to investigate if funds are actually being channeled to support the communist insurgency in the country.

Meanwhile, RMP’s Sister Elenita Belardo said they had already met with the EU to air their side of the AFP’s accusations. She revealed that the outcome of their group’s audit was positive and that the auditor is set to issue a statement to verify that there has been no wrongdoing.

Karapatan Secretary General Tinay Palabay said: “Countless times, Duterte and his allies have maligned human rights workers in the country. They enable the authorities to pursue violence and other forms of human rights violations. This petition is just one form of push back from us.”

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Credit: Michael Beltran
Protesters stand outside the Supreme Court of the Philippines in Manila on May 3, 2019.

The petition outlined six incidents of “red-tagging” – the practice of labeling activists, journalists and progressive politicians as communists, often without evidence – all uttered by President Rodrigo Duterte himself in live broadcasts.

At the heart of the problem they say is the government’s persistence with the “whole of nation” approach in counter-insurgency which was formally signed into implementation by Duterte last December through Executive Order No. 70. Joms Salvador of Gabriela noted that their current framework aims to utilize whole government offices even outside law enforcement to silence critics and dissenters. She added that red-tagging is a favored tactic to rationalize more attacks on those who merely want the truth out.

In a similar vein last November, the Securities and Exchange Commission also issued Memorandum No. 15, which allows for “information and resource sharing” with other law enforcement agencies to identify any perceived threats or “terrorist financing” among non-profit organizations.

Read Next: PHILIPPINES: Press Freedom Under Siege as Duterte Unveils Opposition 'Matrix'

Editor: Nick Aspinwall@TheNewsLens

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