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Startseite Urgent Actions 2019 04 End attacks against human rights defenders Human rights defenders face brutal crackdown
FI 054/19-1
Abgeschlossen am 23. Juli 2019
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14.06.2019 Correction

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Human rights defenders face brutal crackdown

AI-Index: ASA 35/0489/2019

On 22 April, Cristina Palabay of Philippines-based human rights alliance Karapatan received a text message from an unidentified person, sent to her personal number, warning her and several other individuals that they are targeted to be killed this year. Amid the threats against Palabay, on 30 May the Supreme Court directed the government to give access to information of Palabay and other human rights defenders in hope to protect their right to life, liberty and security.


By issuing a writ of amparo and habeas data, the Supreme Court has directed the government to verify the alleged violations and provide information of actions it has taken to investigate the case. This further requires the respondents to disclose any information unlawfully collected or obtained. Respondents – which include Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and the military, intelligence, and other government officials – need to respond by 13 June; the Court of Appeals will then hear the petition on 18 June.

Patigas is the second human rights defender killed who was on a supposed «hit list» disseminated by unknown individuals in Negros Occidental in 2018. The list, reported by Philippine media, asked the general public to report through a specified phone number the whereabouts of these people, putting their lives at great risk. Also, reportedly on the said list was human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos who was killed in November 2018. Dozens of other human rights defenders and activists, including environmental defenders, have also been killed since June 2016, as reported by various media outlets and human rights groups within and outside the country. All these point to the gravity of the threats against Palabay and other activists.

According to Karapatan, at least 50 farm workers and human rights defenders in the Negros region have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in July 2016. The number includes Bernardino Patigas, who was gunned down on 22 April 2019, as he was leaving an election-related activity in Escalante City, Negros Occidental, where he was seeking re-election as member of the city council. Patigas was the founder and secretary-general of North Negros Alliance for Human Rights Advocates, a member-organization of the human rights alliance Karapatan.

According to Karapatan records, 48 human rights defenders belonging to the group have been killed since 2016. Patigas is the second human rights defender killed who was on a supposed «hit list» distributed by unknown individuals in Negros Occidental in early 2018; the first was human rights lawyer Benjamin Ramos, who was killed in November 2018. The Philippine National Police has ordered an investigation into the killing of Ramos, but has yet to release its findings.

Human rights organizations in the Philippines, including Karapatan, have faced smear campaigns and have been tagged by the government as fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines. This characterisation and the increased threats against them from the government have subjected them to intimidation, harassment, attacks and killings, by unknown individuals.

Many of the organizations linked by the government to communist groups have criticised the Duterte administration’s so-called «war on drugs», which has resulted in the extrajudicial execution of thousands of people suspected of using or selling drugs, mostly from poor communities.

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