Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Party-List France Castro has welcomed the decision of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians at its 161st session of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to consider and examine their complaints of continuous harassment due to their opposition to the policies of the Duterte administration.
Rep. France Castro, along with former Rep. Antonio Tinio, former Rep. Ariel Casilao and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago submitted complaints to the IPU for what they claimed were the continuous harassment they have faced due to their opposition to the anti-people policies of the Duterte administration.
The IPU has considered to examine cases of Castro and Elago while they noted that the cases submitted by Tinio and Casilao has already been dismissed.
However, the IPU recognizes and will consider the cases of Tinio and Casilao should there be other allegations about ongoing harassment that are directly related to the previous parliamentary mandate.
“After having been subjected to multiple acts of harassment violations against us, we welcome the consideration of the Inter-Parliamentary Union to examine our cases and investigate on the human rights violations against oppositions like us,” Castro said.
Castro cited the case filed against her and the rest of the Talaingod 18 who were part of the National Solidarity Mission who were detained and later arrested and charged in the course of their effort to rescue Lumad students and teachers of Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc. and of Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao last November 2018.
The case also considered against members of parliament being subjected to arbitrary detention and illegal arrest.
The IPU is a global organization of national parliaments promoting peace through parliamentary diplomacy and dialogue.
It has also been examining cases of Senator Leila de Lima, former Senator Antonio Trillanes and of former Representatives Satur Ocampo, Teodoro Casiño, Liza Maza and Rafael Mariano.
“This administration has been targeting critics of its anti-people policies from incumbent and former legislators to lawyers, journalists, teachers, human rights advocates, farmers and the youth. This administration uses public funds and has made it a policy to target its critics and silence their opposition to the anti-people policies. Executive Order 70 creating the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict is being wielded as a weapon to surveil and further curtail the rights and shrink the already narrow democratic space in the country,” Castro said.
“The consideration of the IPU to examine and investigate on our cases of continuous harassment by the state is a step towards demanding for justice and accountability to the government on their intensifying attacks on the rights of its people to due process, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of movement and our right to voice our disgust to the anti-people policies of this administration and demand for adequate social services, justice and lasting peace,” Castro added.
“The Duterte administration should be cautioned as the international community is not turning a blind eye on the many human rights violations it has committed against the Filipino people,” Castro said.
In a related development, human rights alliance Karapatan cried foul over the so-called protest staged by groups affiliated with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) at the Quezon City Hall of Justice on Thursday, February 20.
Former Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) National Director Sister Elenita Belardo, RGS, was attending the arraignment proceedings of the trumped-up perjury charge filed against her by National Security Adviser and NTF-ELCAC Vice Chairman Hermogenes Esperon, Jr.
The rights group slammed the protest as a “desperate attempt” to malign and harass the 80-year old nun.
“Karapatan firmly stands in solidarity with Sister Elenita Belardo as she faces the proceedings of the perjury charge filed against her by NTF Vice Chairman Esperon. We continue to assert that this charge is nothing more than a judicial harassment suit, an explicit act of reprisal after Sister Elen and the RMP together with Karapatan and Gabriela sought legal protection from the State’s threats and attacks on our human rights work,” said Roneo Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary general, in a statement.
“They are not even sparing an 80-year-old nun like Sister Elenita from their vile and foul fascist attacks in staging a State-sponsored protest meant to heckle her and further malign her missionary work for the rural poor,” said Clamor.
At 2 p.m. on February 20, 2020, groups organized by the NTF-ELCAC such as Hands Off Our Children, League of Parents of the Philippines, and Liga Independencia Pilipinas trooped outside the Hall of Justice bringing placards and streamers red-tagging various progressive organizations and mass leaders.
The groups also chanted calls urging Sister Elen to “stop lying” and “tell the truth” as they were greeted by Esperon and Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy following the arraignment proceedings.
Clamor questioned the presence of these personalities not related to the perjury case: “In a mockery of the people’s right to air dissent and their legitimate grievances, the NTF-ELCAC has decided to step up in their relentless red-tagging campaign by staging protests against human rights defenders and progressive organizations.”
Clamor said the NTF-ELCAC came to the proceedings with the whole circus in tow with the NTF-ELCAC’s pseudo-civil society organizations.
“How does the NTF-ELCAC have the audacity to call on Sister Elen to ‘stop lying’ and to ‘tell the truth’ when real-life trolls in the likes of Esperon and Badoy have already been exposed time and time again for their baseless accusations and lies? When the NTF-ELCAC already has been exposed and mocked for Photoshopping and fabricating stories about rebel surrenderees? When the entire Duterte regime is one big factory mill of fake news and disinformation?” Clamor asked.
“This fascist regime is desperately grasping at straws in harassing human rights defenders and anyone who dares to side with the people. Why would they even come in full force for a Metropolitan Trial Court-level case except for the intent to power-trip and harass? They are seriously mistaken if they think we are cowed by their threats, and in a bid to quell the growing unrest against Duterte’s own fascist policies, the NTF-ELCAC is even exploiting the vulnerable sector—the poor and the marginalized by pitting them against activists and those who struggle for genuine social change,” the Karapatan official continued.
Clamor said the real face of the government’s “Whole-of-Nation counterinsurgency campaign” is the wastage of billions and billions of taxpayer’s money in its relentless red-tagging, mass deception, and State violence rather than addressing the legitimate grievances that lie at the root of dissent.
“We urge these groups to stand against the Duterte regime and the NTF-ELCAC’s maneuvers to exploit the people for their own fascist ends. We strongly assert the need to resist the government’s efforts to occupy the narrow democratic spaces we have left and in appropriating the civil society voice to harass and malign its critics. We will continue to expose and oppose this fascist regime’s efforts to suppress us,” Clamor said.