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Franco-German Prize for Human Rights: Congratulations to KARAPATAN’s Cristina Palabay!

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) – Canada extends warm congratulations to our close partner, Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, who will be receiving the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights as part of the December 10, 2021 celebration of International Human Rights Day (IHRD). The award recognizes Tinay’s outstanding record of human rights advocacy with the Philippine-based human rights alliance Karapatan, as well as her leadership in the women’s rights movement as a co-founder of Gabriela Women’s Party.

Tinay currently serves as the Secretary General of Karapatan, a national alliance of human rights organizations and individual advocates working to promote and protect human rights in the Philippines. She has been involved with the organization since 2010. Throughout her years as a human rights defender, Tinay, like many of her colleagues in Karapatan, has faced death and rape threats, surveillance, and judicial harassment. Indeed, Karapatan’s human rights workers have been subjects of extrajudicial killings and vilification, including red/terrorist-tagging campaigns, as well as online and offline attacks. To date, thirteen (13) Karapatan human rights workers have been killed under the Duterte administration.

Karapatan is a registered non-governmental organization and an accredited partner of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights. It is a member of international human rights networks Forum-Asia, Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Movement for Economic and Socio-Cultural Rights, and SOS-Torture Network of the World Organization Against Torture.

Tinay and Karapatan have partnered with ICHRP-Canada, the United Church of Canada, KAIROS, and other progressive organizations based in Canada for many years. Most recently, our coalition helped bring Tinay to speak at a hearing of Canada’s House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights on the human rights situation in the Philippines. Tinay spoke alongside 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa. Immediately afterward, Tinay was vilified on the personal social media of the Director General of the Philippine government’s National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Alex Monteagudo, who reposted on Facebook accusations against Tinay of false testimony.

The recognition of the work of Tinay, Karapatan, and Gabriela Women’s Party is more than timely. At this moment, the human rights situation in the Philippines is in deep crisis, as abuses have grown rampant under the Duterte administration. From the beginning of his presidency, the War on Drugs led to hundreds of extrajudicial killings at the hands of the police and militia groups. 

In 2018, in the name of counterinsurgency, Duterte established the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) via Executive Order 70. In practice, this led to increased red-tagging, harassment and murders of human rights and land defenders, and police and armed forces were given carte blanche to round up activists on generic warrants and trumped-up charges. Then, in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while Philippine jails are more than four times overcapacity, Duterte passed the Anti-Terror Act to further criminalize dissent.

Throughout these climbing violations, Karapatan has been a staunch defender of the rights of the Filipino people, even in the face of brutal repression and mortal threat.

In September 2021, the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorized a probe into the crimes against humanity committed under Duterte’s War on Drugs. Investigate PH, an independent international commission of people’s organizations and individuals, has also released three reports containing findings to back this probe. The Philippine government claimed that they are conducting their own investigation of the crimes, and attributed most of the deaths to self-defense by the police. 

Unfortunately, the ICC has temporarily suspended their investigation at the request of the Philippine government. This was a disappointing decision, as there is credible evidence suggesting the judiciary issued bogus warrants to legitimize police actions which violated human rights, and questioning the government’s commitment to accountability. 

We congratulate Tinay and Karapatan for the valuable human rights work they have done over the years, and for true justice to be achieved, we call on the world to hold the Philippine government accountable. Thus, we call on the ICC to resume the investigation into the Philippines’ human rights situation without delay.

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