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Stop the intimidation, threats vs. human rights defenders during election campaign period – iDEFEND

2022 graphic threats vs HRDs statement

Thursday, 28 April 2022

iDefend deplores the increased intimidation, harassment and threats of violence in the days leading up to the May 9 polls. Incidents of shooting, profiling and serious intimidation particularly against human rights defenders in the course of their work to promote voters’ rights and advocacy have been reported.

In February, a Liga ng Makabagong Kabataan- Iligan Chapter’s staff was summoned to the local military camp, interrogated about his possible links with the NPA as well as with iDEFEND Mindanao, which was red tagged by the government, and forced to sign a document denying his involvement with so-called communist/terrorist groups. Thereafter his colleagues were also summoned and instructed to ‘monitor’ and report on his movements. Members of the Lanao Human Rights Alliance were also summoned by the military shortly after the incident.

This April members of the Manobo-Pulangiyon community in Bukidnon were fired upon during the visit of Presidential candidate Ka Leody de Guzman, resulting in injuries to five (5) including the organizers of the indigenous people’s campaign against land grabbing.

In the same month, members of Alterpol Movement in Bataan found a written threat attached to the gate of their office warning them to desist from campaigning for Presidential candidate Leni Robredo.

Last weekend, five armed men in civilian clothes approached the San Pedro Telma Parish in Aparri town, Cagayan and introduced themselves as police officers to Living Laudatu Si’ Philippines’ News and Information Officer Mark Zaludes, and to advocacy officer Sheena Katrina Orihuela. The men wanted to search the Church for a supposedly escaped prisoner, however Zaludes feared this was an armed harassment against their group which supports the struggle of the local fisher folk against black sand mining in the area.

Reports have also surfaced of a possible enforced disappearance of a local volunteer of Presidential candidate Leni Robredo’s People’s Council in Candelaria, Quezon. According to the potential victim’s wife, Dante Gatdula was apparently last seen on April 23, Saturday, and has not been seen nor heard from since.

iDefend calls on the relevant authorities, including the Commission on Elections and the Commission on Human Rights, to put a stop to these alarming events, urgently investigate and resolve these cases, file appropriate charges against the perpetrators and ensure the protection of human rights defenders especially in the last stretch of the campaign period.

Electoral campaigns being undertaken by human rights defenders are crucial towards ending Duterte’s authoritarian policies, which include the shrinking of civic spaces, war on dissent, misogyny, vilification and criminalization of human rights advocacy, and disinformation. Human rights defenders have a critical stake in the outcome of the upcoming polls not only as voters, but as important stakeholders in the future of the country under a new normal- a new normal which hopefully replaces the culture of hatred and death with a culture of peace and human rights.