The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) called on the incoming administration of president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to abolish the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and to repeal the country’s Anti-Terrorism Law.
The group urged the new administration “to prove that the commitment to human rights accountability” that the president-elect assured to the United Nations “is not just an ‘aspiration.’”
In a statement on Tuesday, June 21, Peter Murphy, ICHRP chairperson, said the anti-terrorism task force and the anti-terrorism law “are tools of state terrorism against anyone and everyone who speaks out against anti-people measures.”
The statement came after several human rights groups in the country complained that they have been “red-tagged” or were attacked and labeled as communists and terrorists.
“Numerous other attacks … were documented and brought to the attention of local authorities,” said the group.
Murphy called on incoming National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos to address the root causes of the conflict in the country “by heeding the calls of the people, not with band aid solutions but with genuine national development.”
On Saturday, June 18, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, also called on the Philippine government to protect human rights defenders in the country.
“I’m hearing more worrying news about Human Rights Defenders in the Philippines being targeted,” she said in Twitter.
In a statement, Lawlor said that in recent years “many defenders have been dragged before the courts, smeared, red tagged and murdered in the Philippines.”
“This intimidation should stop immediately,” she said. “I urge the authorities in the Philippines to stop the targeting of Human Rights Defenders, and instead promote and protect their work,” Lawlor added.
“We know that harassment and threats can be precursors to physical attacks, as they make defenders more vulnerable and isolated. These attacks should stop immediately.”
In a statement, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict called Lawlor “ignorant,” saying that her idea of human rights defenders is “biased and prejudiced.”
Flosemer Chris Gonzales, the task force’s spokesman, said Lawlor made sweeping, baseless conclusions and accusations against the Philippine government.