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1 December 2016

Philippines: Presidential speech threatens to kill human rights defenders

On 28 November 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to kill human rights defenders in the Philippines in his speech in Malacañang. “The human rights (defenders) said I ordered the killings. I told them, ‘OK Let’s stop. We’ll let them (drug users) multiply so that when it’s harvest time, more people will die, I will include you  because you are the reason why their numbers swell,” referring to human rights defenders.`

Since the election of President Duterte in May 2016, killings of alleged drug users and dealers has surged dramatically. The ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group documented that 2,210 people have been killed from 10 May to 27 October 2016, 1268 of these have been killed in police operations, while 782 were killed by unidentified groups.

There are well-founded fears that the administration’s encouragement of extra-judicial killings will put human rights defenders at a greater risk, by effectively lowering the political cost of killing human rights defenders.

Front Line Defenders received reports of the killing of at least 23 human rights defenders in 2016. Global Witness has ranked the country the second most dangerous country for human rights defenders.

On 25 July 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte  declared during the State of the Nation Address that the “rule of law must at all times prevail” and the government is obliged to “fulfil the human rights of our citizens.” Front Line Defenders respectfully reminds President Rodrigo Duterte that it is the President’s responsibility to protect the universal rights and freedoms of all Filipinos.

Amongst the human rights defenders killed this year, Front Line Defenders raised the case of environmental and woman human rights defender Ms Gloria Capitan with the Philippines authorities. On 1 July 2016, Gloria Capitan was shot dead by two unidentified men riding motorcycles. Although an investigation was opened in regards to her murder there has been no progress on her case to date. Since the start of her work opposing the coal mining and storage project in 2015, Gloria Capitan  faced intimidation and threats allegedly from representatives of the companies owning the coal facilities.

Front Line Defenders calls on the Philippines authorities to:

1. Immediately end extra-judicial killings and other gross and systematic violations of human rights committed against human rights defenders and others;

2. Ensure that investigations into cases of extra-judicial killings, disappearances, torture, and fabrications of charges of human rights defenders are effective, impartial, and prompt;

3. Take measures to ensure that government officials or other public figures refrain from making statements or declarations stigmatising the legitimate work of human rights defenders and publicly recognise the positive and legitimate role played by human rights defenders in society;

4. Ensure full respect of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, including in particular the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.