3 UN Rapporteurs censure PH gov’t on red-tagging
Environmental Defenders Congress
July 27, 2023
𝘐𝘯 𝘢 𝘫𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘙𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘶𝘳 𝘰𝘯 𝘩𝘶𝘮𝘢𝘯 𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘴 𝘥𝘦𝘧𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘙𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘶𝘳 𝘰𝘯 𝘦𝘯𝘷𝘪𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘴, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘙𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘳𝘵𝘦𝘶𝘳 𝘰𝘯 𝘐𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘨𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘶𝘴 𝘱𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦𝘴' 𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘴 𝘤𝘦𝘯𝘴𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘱𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘦 𝘨𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘯𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘤𝘳𝘪𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘨𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘨𝘢𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘕𝘓 7 𝘦𝘯𝘷𝘪𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘥𝘦𝘧𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘴.
Three United Nations Special Rapporteurs delivered a compelling joint communication to the Philippine government on May 8, 2023, expressing "serious concerns over the criminal indictment and harassment” faced by seven dedicated Indigenous rights and environmental defenders in the Philippines who advocate for Indigenous peoples, land, and environmental rights: Mr. Florence Kang, Mr. Nino Joseph Oconer, Ms. Lucia Lourdes Gimenez, Ms. Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa, Mr. Windel Bolinget, Mr. Stephen Tauli, and Ms. Sarah Abellon Alikes.
Following UN protocols, the communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, allowing the Philippine government ample time to respond. It was posted on the website of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders on July 19, 2023.
In their powerful message, Mary Lawlor, the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, David R. Boyd, the Special Rapporteur on environmental rights, and José Francisco Cali Tzay, the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous peoples' rights, expressed serious concern over the allegations of rebellion charges that had been brought against the defenders for their alleged involvement in an armed ambush on soldiers of the Philippine Army in October 2022. In its indictment, the Philippine court had accused the seven defenders of being part of a larger armed group, and of aiming to overthrow the government.
The Special Rapporteurs also expressed grave apprehensions over the red-tagging of the defenders on social media and the portrayal of their work as a threat to national security, noting that such a portrayal places the defenders at a higher risk for harassment and attacks.
The Rapporteurs also urged the government to address the allegations promptly and to take steps to ensure the safety and protection of human rights defenders in the country.
“The international community awaits the Philippine government's response and expects concrete actions to create a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders to carry out their vital work without fear of harassment or retaliation,” the UN personalities said.
The communication also specifically noted earlier official UN reports that expressed concerns on the red-tagging of human rights and environmental defenders:
- The Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders wrote a report to the Human Rights Council called "Final warning: death threats and killings of human rights defenders” (A/HRC/46/22). In that report, she noted that being tagged as “red” or communist was a serious threat, and that some defenders who had been so tagged had been murdered.
- A report by the previous High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2020, which noted how red-tagging has been a big threat to civil society and freedom of expression for decades (A/HRC/44/22). People who work to protect human rights have been badly affected by these false accusations, the report said.
- A statement delivered at the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council in March 2023, the current High Commissioner for Human Rights also raised similar concerns, calling for “a safer environment for civil society” and the end of “politically motivated charges” against human rights defenders.
In its post on its website on July 19, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders noted that “since the communication was sent, an Abra Regional Trial Court granted a motion to quash the rebellion charges (on 11 May 2023) due to lack of probable cause. The court also ordered the quashing of all warrants issued against the seven human rights defenders. Unfortunately, the smears have continued.”
It also made special mention of the fact that the Philippine Anti-terrorism Council (ATC) had, on July 10, designated Ms. Sarah Abellon Alikes, Ms. Jennifer Awingan-Taggaoa, Mr. Windel Bolinget and Mr. Stephen Tauli as “terrorist individuals”.
Read the communication here: https://srdefenders.org/philippines-criminal-charges.../