Solidarity statement for the July 10 Global Day of Action to Release All Political Prisoners in the Philippines

The People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty joins today’s Global Day of Action to Release All Political Prisoners in the Philippines led by our member Peasant Movement of the Philippines!

The Philippines is among –  if not yet the most – dangerous country for land rights defenders in the world. PAN Asia Pacific’s Land and Rights Watch reported that four out of every ten arrested, detained, and legally persecuted in relation to land conflicts and struggles from January 2017 to June 2019 were from the Philippines. Forty-three out of these 137 Filipinos documented were peasant women. Independent human rights group KARAPATAN has recorded a total of 2,370 illegal arrests under the present regime of President Rodrigo Duterte, and 209 out of those 539 detained remain in jail as of March 2019.

Such numbers were made possible by the intensifying repression under the Duterte regime. The enforcement of the anti-terror law Human Security Act and the government’s counter-insurgency campaign via Memorandum Order No. 32[1] and Oplan Kapanatagan[2] emboldened the police and military to abuse their power in order to silence legitimate criticism and stifle the dissent of the rural peoples in the country.

The likes of Ireneo Udarbe, Datu Jomorito Goaynon, Jerry Basahon, Alvin Fortaliza, Azucena Garubat, and Norly Bernabe – all of whom were arrested just this year – were charged with trumped up unbailable offenses and are alleged to be members or sympathizers of the belligerent New People’s Army. They were targeted for leading communities in campaigns against land grabbing and militarization of peasant communities.

Such warrants immediate attention as militarization intensifies in many parts of the country and the violations especially the killings of farmers and Indigenous Peoples are rising. The situation in communities is made worse by neoliberal policies that facilitate the protection and expansion of massive landgrabs of landlords and corporations, aggravating rural poverty – the bigger yet fundamental problem.

We cannot afford more lives endangered by any less than the state that is supposed to protect its people. We cannot tolerate the abuses and injustices that states perpetuate to serve elite interests, which is already the case in the Global South particularly in Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Today, on the Global Day of Action to Release Political Prisoners in the Philippines, we challenge the members states of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to support Iceland’s proposed resolution for an independent investigation of the grave human rights situation in the Philippines during the ongoing regular session of the UNHRC, which will end on July 12.

More importantly, PCFS urges its members and networks to call out the Duterte regime and demand its accountability for violating the rights of its people especially the land rights defenders. Let us urge for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in the Philippines!

Free all political prisoners in the Philippines!
Stop criminalizing dissent!
Stop the attacks against land rights defenders!

[1] Memorandum Order No. 32 was issued by President Rodrigo Duterte on November 22, 2018,ordering the intensified deployment and operation of police and military troops in the provinces of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Samar, and Bicol.

[2] Oplan Kapanatagan 2018-2022 is the five-year joint campaign plan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). It lays down the security framework of the two agencies for coordination and cooperation on peace, security, and law enforcement activities, particularly their operations on internal security, anti-criminality, and counter-terrorism.

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