The United Church of Canada has issued a statement expressing support for human rights activists in the Philippines who are facing charges of perjury and who have been “red-tagged” by authorities.
The Church group also called on the Philippine government to drop the perjury charges against some activists and “to end the practice of red-tagging.”
In a statement signed by Rev. Dr. Japhet Ndhlovu, executive minister of the Church in Mission Unit of The United Church of Canada, the group noted that since the creation of the National Task Force to end Local Communist Armed Conflict in 2017, “the government and armed forces have engaged in a process of red-tagging in which it identifies human rights defenders as participating in armed conflict and allows them to be targeted for arbitrary arrest and extra judicial killings.”
“The government has recently further pursued perjury cases against human rights defenders and organizations that try to draw attention to these practices,” read the statement.
Human rights group Karapatan announced on Monday, June 27, that its deputy secretary general, Roneo Clamor, was set to take the witness stand in the court hearings for the perjury charge file by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
Also charged are national officers of Karapatan, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, and the women’s Gabriela.
The case was filed after the officers of the three NGOs included Esperon as respondent in a petition for the writs of amparo and habeas corpus, to seek legal protection from threats and other human rights violations of the organizations’ leaders and members.
“These practices financially incapacitate the individuals and groups that they are targeting by over-burdening them with court fees,” noted the Church group.
Karapatan is a national alliance of organizations, human rights desks and individuals working for the promotion and defense of human rights and people’s rights in the Philippines. It has 16 regional chapters, more than 40 member organizations and human rights desks, and numerous individual advocates among various sectors.
Activists allied with the human rights group, however, are routinely subjected to harassment, arbitrary arrest, and reportedly targeted by extrajudicial killings.