May 6, 2021, Jodesz Gavilan
Karapatan says supporting the Duterte government means ‘signing off not only on the constriction of democratic and civic space in the country but also [on] the rise of authoritarianism’
Human rights groups on Wednesday, May 5, urged the Canadian government to take necessary action against the “epidemic of rights violations” under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Speaking before a Canadian parliamentary hearing, Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay emphasized that the Duterte government’s anti-terrorism framework is damaging democracy in the country.
“It is driving and enhancing state terror and framed in a way that quells political dissent and any of its perceived enemies,” she said.
According to Karapatan, at least 394 activists have been killed under Duterte, mostly land rights, indigenous, and environmental activists.
As it becomes “even more dangerous every day” in the Philippines, Palabay cautioned the Canadian government against further assisting the Duterte administration.
“It is apparent that funding, supporting, and cooperating with [the Philippine government] with this kind of framework is signing off not only on the constriction of democratic and civic space in the country but also [on] the rise of authoritarianism,” she said.
‘End quiet diplomacy’
Aside from killings of activists, casualties of the government’s anti-drug campaign remain high. Duterte’s violent war on drugs has led to at least 6,089 killed in police operations as of March 31, 2021, while groups estimate the number to be between 27,000 and 30,000 to include victims of vigilante-style killings.
Guy-Lin Beaudoin of the Quebec-based International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said it is time for the Canadian government to assure Filipinos that it will not tolerate rampant abuse.
“Canada must end its policy of quiet diplomacy,” he said.
ICHRP earlier urged the Canadian government to cease defense support to the Duterte administration in the aftermath of the “Bloody Sunday” crackdown which saw 9 activists killed in police and military operations in Calabarzon.
Beaudoin also called on the foreign affairs ministry and the Canadian embassy in Manila to “apply vigorously the tools” to protect activists and victims of abuse in the Philippines.
Journalists, youth groups, and even ordinary citizens, such as community pantry organizers, also face continued harassment. Many have been red-tagged or accused of having communist links.
With the dire situation in the country, Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa urged Filipinos, especially those with the means, to act against threats to Philippine democracy.
“This is the time for those who have power and money to step up and to bring up the values that are important for a democracy,” Ressa said in the Canadian parliamentary hearing.
“Because at this time, if you don’t, silence is complicity.” – Rappler.com