Threats to Development Work, Threat to Peoples’ Right to Development

December 10, 2019

by MASIPAG National Office

Unity Statement

Unity statement on Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) Panay Cluster and MASIPAG’s Round Table Discussion on Human Rights and Challenges on Development Work, held on December 4, 2019 at Jaro Bellevue, Jaro, Iloilo City.

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, are united in our stand
against the violation of the people’s right to development thru the continued intimidation, harassment and attacks among human rights and development workers in the Philippines, particularly in the Visayas in general, and in Panay Island in particular.

Power dynamics, uneven distribution of wealth and utter government neglect has placed the vast majority of the Visayan people into poverty and hunger despite the bountiful resources of its lands and seas. Development work, thus, plays a major role in enabling and empowering the people for them to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy social, political, economic and cultural development.

However, human rights and development workers are under attack. On November 6, 2018, Atty. Ben Ramos, Executive Director of PDG, long-time Board of Trustees Member of MASIPAG and development worker was killed months after being maliciously red-tagged. Romeo “Romy” Capalla of the Panay Fair Trade Center (PFTC) was murdered in March 2014. Both cases remain unsolved. Some offices and staff of development organizations were subjected to threats, vilification, surveillance, and red-tagging. Much of the farmers that they helped organized are once daily-wage farm workers who after their intervention are now engaging into sustainable and organic agriculture. Clearly their participation in bringing change and uplifting the lives of the farmers, and their critical stand on the present agricultural and political system in the Philippines made them victims of human rights violations.

These issues are not much different from what is happening all over the country. Under Duterte’s “whole-of-nation” approach, the Philippines tops globally in the number of environmental and land defenders killed. Recently, eighteen local and international non-government organizations, mainly focusing on humanitarian relief assistance, were red-tagged by the military during a congressional budget hearing on AFP modernization held November 5, 2019. Harassment and intimidation thru red-baiting, surveillance, illegal searches, death threats are the tools to demoralize and discredit development workers and their organizations.

The attack on human rights and development workers are an affront to the
people’s right to development. These violations will only weaken the nation’s thrust for genuine development, especially in the rural areas whose services brought by development workers and their organizations are most needed. It is very unfortunate that these acts are being made at a time when the country is facing problems brought about by the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN), Rice Liberalization Law, climate change, landlessness and corporate domination of agriculture.

Today, December, 10, 2019, on the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we express the following calls:

  1. Enjoin the different sectors on their call for the respect, promotion and protection of human rights and the people’s right to development.
  2. Hold accountable the government on the spate of human rights violations in the country and the continued shrinking spaces for development work.
  3. Call for an impartial investigation on the human rights violations in the Visayas region. We also call for the support of different nations and in particular the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution to investigate and prepare a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.
  4. Support the enactment of the Human Rights Defenders Bill in the House of Representatives;
  5. Call for a nationwide campaign to Stop the Killings of all persons by all parties in the armed conflict strongly being echoed by the Negros Bishops; denounce and hold accountable those responsible for all the killings be it state or non-state actors, from the top leadership down;
  6. Intensify human rights education and capacity building of vulnerable
    communities, conduct widespread awareness campaign on the International Humanitarian Law / CARHRIHL in partner communities and empower them with skills on para-legal work and documentation of human rights violations;
  7. Network civil society and faith-based organizations to gather relief-aid and provide psycho-social services for families of the victims of killings and arrests;
  8. Lobby for the enactment of policy that are favourable to people and poor communities’ efforts for peace and democracy; ask the Supreme Court to declare all anti-people Executive Orders, Memorandum Orders and Memorandum Circulars as illegal, null and void;
  9. That Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) engage as a network of human rights advocacies in the international level and engaging UN bodies and governments of first world countries;
  10. Encourage PMPI partners to implement socio-economic development work in affected communities through a complementation of members of PMPI, other CSOs and agencies to address the basic roots of the armed conflict at the local level;
  11. Call for a resumption of Peace Talks between the GRP and CNN; and
  12. Help initiate local peace dialogue and/or set-up peace platforms where local communities, government, church and military can discuss and tackle peace, human rights and drug related concerns.

Signed this December 4, 2019 at Jaro, Iloilo City.