As we commemorate the International Human Rights Day, we view with deep concern the rapid deterioration of the human rights situation in the Philippines. We are witnessing how far the country has regressed in terms of upholding, respecting, and protecting people’s rights,
This situation is aptly described by Karapatan saying: “There is a human rights crisis in the country. Regardless of the denials and legal acrobatics by the Duterte government, it has made its mark as a murderous regime that disregards people’s rights. This government’s record is besmirched with blood, with thousands killed in the sham drug war and counterinsurgency program, thousands displaced by bombings and militarisation, hundreds arbitrarily detained and filed with trumped-up charges, and thousands more harassed, red-tagged, and threatened for their activism.”
In its 12 December report Karapatan said: “on top of the thousands killed in the drug war, the group has documented 293 political killings – 167 of which are human rights defenders. At least 204 were tortured, 429 were victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 11 were forcibly disappeared, and 94,075 were threatened and harassed. It is also under Duterte that the number of political prisoners in the country have sharply risen. Having arrested 382 of the 629 political detainees in the country, the Duterte government is responsible for the unjust incarceration of more than half of political prisoners in the country.”
Duterte’s hand in the rampant violations perpetrated under his term is evident. This is made clear with the barrage of repressive policies that is meant to justify repression and funnel State resources to silence critics.
Among the foremost repressive policies on Duterte’s playbook are its sham drug war, its counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan, martial law in Mindanao, Memorandum No. 32, and its new task force for harassing legal organisations, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) created by Executive Order No. 70 (s2018).
On the other hand, the Tao Po performance in Vienna, Austria last October 12 and was a great success and watched by more than a hundred people. The event “was overwhelming!”, the big attendance was unexpected. Day after the event of Tao Po a successful followed up discussion was be held at Amerlinghaus, Stiffgasse, 1070 Vienna, that led to the formation of temporary steering committee for Rise UP for Life-Austria.
More so, on 20 November 2019, Migrante Austria submitted and open letter to President Duterte via the office of Ambassador Maria Cleofe Natividad. And on the same day at 5-7pm, members of Migrante Austria and its allied organisations held protest rally near the office of the Philippine Embassy at Donau City, Vienna.
The open letter/protest rally demanded President Duterte to :
- stop the war waging against the Filipino people!
- to kill poverty – not the poor and those who
- defend them!
- listen and act on the decades-long call of
- Filipinos for genuine social reforms and respect
- for human rights!
A further development took place in the 2nd Migrante Europe Congress in Como, Italy last 8 December 2019. Bishop Antonio Ablon, President of Mindanao Bishops Conference, agreed to be the guest speaker of a round table discussion here in Vienna on 19 January 2020, 5-7pm on the impact of the gross human rights violations in the Philippines on the marginalised sectors of our society, ie, Lumads, etc.
Thus, the steering committee of Rise up for Life and Migrante Austria in its meeting last 11 December 2019 recommended the formation of Austrian Network for Justice & Peace in the Philippines (ANJPP) whose objectives are:
- Raise awareness in Austria about the situation in the Philippines
- Organise and participate in activities in support of the Filipino people’s rights and democratic aspirations
- Condemn the intensifying killings, repression and other human rights violations in the Philippines
- Stop the support of the government of Austria to the repressive Duterte government.
Furthermore, we call all churches to unite against the oppressive measures of the Duterte regime against critics. It is our moral obligation to oppose the killing of human beings and to defend the defenders.
Let our prayers be put into action and let us “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” as stressed in 1 Peter 5:8. Within this troublesome tide, the church people must continue to give witness to our faith and march forward in defense of the Filipino people’s common values and aspirations for human dignity, justice and peace.
10 December 2019