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Statement of Solidarity on the case of Maria Ressa, Karapatan National Officers, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela


15 July 2022

Patricia Lisson, Chairperson
Olivia Blahuta, Media contact person

RE: Maria Ressa’s cyber-libel conviction; Perjury Case against Cristina Palabay, Karapatan National Officers, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (KMP) and Gabriela National Alliance of Women

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP-Canada) joins all press freedom advocates and international human rights groups in denouncing Maria Ressa’s lost of her appeal against conviction of cyber-libel. The cyber-libel case relates to a story published on Rappler in 2012 that alleged ties between a Philippine businessman, Wilfredo D Keng, and a high court judge.

The criticism voiced through Rappler is well within the freedom of expression in a democratic society where independent and fact-based journalism serve to protect against abuse of power, lies and propaganda.

On May 4th, 2021, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development conducted a briefing on the human rights situation in the Philippines. Witnesses from the Philippines and Canada included Maria Ressa, co-founder and CEO of Rappler and Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of Karapatan, a national alliance of human rights organizations. ‘
Both women were subject to continuing judicial harassment and vilification following their presentation to the committee.

ICHRP Canada condemns the malicious and retaliatory charges of perjury filed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. against Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, the Karapatan national officers, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and the Gabriela National Alliance of Women.

In the context of rising state terror in the Philippines levelled at civil society organizations and the de facto terrorist designation of Karapatan following the creation of the NTF-ELCAC in December 2018, the incidence of death threats, surveillances, arrests and extrajudicial killings of its members increased. This phenomenon has been widely documented by independent international organizations such as the UNHRC and the International Commission of Inquiry to Investigation Human Rights Violations in the Philippines (InvestigatePH). In this context, Karapatan, RMP and Gabriela sought court protection from military and state orchestrated attacks. Karapatan and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines filed complaints regarding ongoing human rights violations at the Commission on Human Rights on March 13, 2019.

These charges are part of ongoing systemic attacks against human rights defenders in the Philippines. The perjury charges, unlawful arrests, and all forms of persecution are a direct violation of rights, protection of journalists and human rights defenders.

ICHRP Canada stands in solidarity with Maria Ressa, Cristina “Tinay” Palabay along with Karapatan national officers, RMP, and Gabriela in the face of these attacks. We call on the Philippine government to drop the charges and to adhere and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory. #