Roque Red-Tags International Human Rights Defenders Over Dirty Dozen Campaign

ICHRP Global Press Release
April 4, 2022

Former Presidential Spokesperson and now Senatorial candidate Harry Roque has turned immediately to red tagging international human rights advocates when we called him out for the deadly practice of red tagging,” said ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy in Sydney today in response to Roque’s outburst last Saturday.

Roque has made the preposterous but dangerous claim that the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines is a ‘legal front’ for the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. Sadly this is a routine red tagging applied to any Filipino who advocates for land reform, workers’ rights, environmental protection or the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and it has led to 427 political killings during Duterte’s presidency up to the end of 2021. Now it is applied to foreigners,” said Mr Murphy.

Roque used his attack on ICHRP to red tag the Bayan-Muna Party List and the BAYAN alliance of people’s organisations, mistakenly claiming that BAYAN is a member of ICHRP. ICHRP member organizations are all based outside the Philippines, and are organizations of non-Filipino citizens, including churches, trade unions, and lawyers’ associations,” said Mr Murphy.

In June 2020, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Michelle Bachelet reported to the UN Human Rights Council:

While numerous statements by President Duterte are subsequently clarified by his spokesperson and other officials as not to be taken literally, the widespread killings, detentions, red-tagging and score-settling by State actors, including in the campaign against illegal drugs, suggest that his public comments may have incited violence and may have had the effect of encouraging, backing or even ordering human rights violations with impunity. The use of such language could amount to a violation of the prohibition against arbitrary deprivation of life in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” (p. 15)

As Presidential Spokesperson, Harry Roque did much ‘clarifying’ of the President’s incitements, and justified the withdrawal of the Philippines from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. In November 2021, the Philippine government nomination of Roque, a supposedly former human right lawyer, to the UN International Law Commission was rejected. 

Further comment: Peter Murphy +61 418 312 301 chairperson@ichrp.net

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Justice for Belle!

ICHRP-US condemns the kidnapping, torture, and rape of 15 year old “Belle” and demands the perpetrators and enablers of the heinous crime be held accountable. Just last week, Belle’s family announced at a press conference that they have filed charges against elements of the 59th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and a paramilitary unit (Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit or CAFGU) connected to it who they believe were responsible for the kidnapping, illegal detention and rape of Belle. They have also filed charges against Chief of the Southern Luzon Command during the time of the incident, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade. The SOLCOM commands 59th IBPA.Gen. Parlade was also the Spokesperson of the National Taskforce to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-ELCAC. 

Belle was detained from July 27 to August 13, 2020 at a military camp in Pagbilao, Quezon.  She has asserted harsh interrogation, physical torture, and rape were used to coerce her to claim she and her parents were insurgents with the New People’s Army. Unfortunately, cruel tactics such as these are commonly used, even against children, in the Duterte administration’s war against their critics. The NTF-ELCAC and Parlade have likened the work of community pantries which distributed food to the hungry to the “work of the devil.” Its spiteful policy separated Baby River Nasino, who died at 3 months, from her mother, political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino who was jailed on allegedly false charges of firearm and explosive possession. While the NTF-ELCAC’s attempts to link civilians to terrorism have ranged from absurd to blatant lies, all have succeeded in mercilessly targeting civilians in an attempt to deflect attention from how the administration has failed its own people, leaving them starving, suffering, sick, and even dead. 

Antonio Parlade has been identified as one of the biggest human rights abusers in the Philippines for his red-tagging of activists, journalists, and celebrities in his role as spokesperson for the NTF-ELCAC which severely undermines freedom of expression and is linked to the killing of numerous activists and organizers. In a recent bipartisan letter to the U.S. State Department in which ICHRP was cited, 24 U.S. representatives called for sanctions to be applied against General Parlade among other members of the Philippine military and Police. 

As an organization that stands for human rights in the Philippines, ICHRP-US is concerned about the ways US moral, political, and financial support for the Duterte administration and its security forces have enabled these grave crimes against the Filipino people, arguably crimes against humanity, to persist and proliferate. ICHRP-US urges its members and allies to stop the flow of US support to the Duterte administration and its security forces by mobilizing to pass the Philippine Human Rights Act and to sanction officials like Parlade who are responsible for grave human rights violations accountable for their unlawful acts via the Magnitsky Act.

Sec-Gen of Karapatan Wins Human Rights Prize

ICHRP-US congratulates Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Secretary General of Karapatan Human Rights Alliance, for winning the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and Rule of Law Award. The award signifies international recognition of the justness of Palabay’s work despite many attempts of the Duterte regime to attack her, Karapatan, and human rights defenders across the Philippines. 

“I, we, stand with all of you today — unburied by those who wanted to take life and our rights away from all of us. This recognition, the Franco-German Human Rights Prize and the Rule of Law Award, is not only for me: it is for each and every person who believes in defending and advancing people’s rights,” Palabay said.

Tinay Palabay is our friend and we are a proud partner of Karapatan Human Rights Alliance. We have been privileged to host Tinay on speaking tours in the United States in 2017 and 2019. We are committed to genuine solidarity with the struggle of the Filipino people and will continue to support Karapatan’s work in the face of increasing attacks and human rights violations. 

Human Rights Situation in the Philippines Requires Independent Investigation & International Solidarity

On December 10th, International Human Rights Day — the mere concept of human rights remains a point of contention in the Philippines. Between December 7 and 10, the government of the Philippines Department of Justice held a Summit on Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines, including in the program points on the Anti-Terror Law, children in armed conflict, and protection of rights on social media among other topics. To open the Summit, President Rodrigo Duterte claimed that human rights are a high priority for the Philippines, given the human rights treaties the country has joined. 

This recent attempt of the Duterte regime to posture in concern of human rights is a sham. Duterte’s human rights record speaks for itself — one need not delve deep into the regime’s record to see widespread criticism of it’s brutality, killings, and attacks against the Filipino people. 

Even in the weeks leading up to the Philippine government’s Human Rights Summit, two NDFP consultants protected under international humanitarian law were killed; the daughter of Philippine Representative Eufemia Cullamat, a medic in the New People’s Army, was killed and her body desecrated and used as war trophy, again violated humanitarian law. Then, on December 2nd, Amanda Echanis, surviving daughter of recently killed NDFP consultant Randy Echanis, was arrested along with her newborn baby. Today, on International Human Rights Day, the Philippine National Police conducted multiple raise across Manila to arrest 6 unionists and a journalist: Dennise Velasco, Rodrigo Esparago, Romina Astudillo, Mark Ryan Cruz, Joel Demate and Jaymie Gregorio Jr., and Lady Ann Salem.

The Philippine government, whose longstanding and most recent human rights violations demonstrate their attack on people’s efforts to build genuine peace, has no credibility to hold genuine discussion on human rights. The situation requires independent investigation, and we applaud the global people’s initiative to do just that in holding an International Independent Commission On Investigation into Human Rights Violations in the Philippines. Further, we call upon concerned peoples in United States to respond and build international solidarity with the Filipino people against growing tyranny and fascism. 

Justice for Baby River! Free Reina Nasino!

ICHRP-US sends our condolences to the family of Baby River, who died of respiratory problems on October 9 at 3 months old; we condemn in the strongest terms the inhumane treatment of her mother, activist and political prisoner Reina Nasino. 

The Philippine governement’s handling of Baby River and Reina Nasino’s case amounts to no less than torture. 

On November 5 2019, Philippine state forces illegally raided the offices of Bayan and arrested Reina Nasino on false charges and planted evidence. After being jailed, Nasino learned of her pregnancy with her partner and suffered depression and faced the brutal health conditions that were already hazardous prior to Covid-19.  After giving birth to River on July 1, Reina Nasino was not allowed furlough from prison while River remained malnourished and weak. 

Since River passed on October 9th, the National Union of People’s Lawyers and Reina’s family petitioned for a three day furlough for Reina Nasino to mourn. Although the court initially granted three days to Nasino, the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory sent a letter requesting to limit the furlough to two separate three hour visits for River’s wake and funeral procession, citing lack of jail personnel available to handle a prisoner on furlough.  

During the first three hours of “furlough” in which Nasino attended River’s wake, state forces surrounded Reina and did not remove her handcuffs except so she could briefly wipe tears from her eyes. Obstructing free speech, the jail personnel further tried to prevent Nasino from speaking with the media. 

We are enraged and hold the Philippine government responsible for River’s passing. Ultimately Duterte himself is responsible given his backtracking on promises to release political prisoners and Anti-Terror Law which demonizes, imprisons and kills activists. While the Duterte regime continues to outrightly attack the rights of Filipinos and especially activists, we call for widespread dissent and demand the release of all political prisoners.