This letter was originally sent to Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly via e-mail, in light of her visit to the Philippines.
Montreal, May 17th, 2023
The Honourable Minister Mélanie Joly, P.C., M.P. Minister of Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Ending Canada’s support to the counter-terrorism campaign of the Philippine Government
Honourable Minister Joly,
ICHRP Canada is urging you to address significant concerns related to Canada’s backing of the Philippine Government’s “counter-terrorism measures” and the ongoing human rights violations in the country. We request that you bring up these issues during regional security and stability talks, upholding a rules-based international order, Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, and partnership with ASEAN.
It is important for Canada to stop offering financial, programmatic, and technical assistance to the Philippine Government as it may lead to the oppression of its own citizens through counter-terrorism measures. This involves the unjust labelling of dissenters (red-tagging), including human rights defenders, as enemies of the state and targeting them through questionable counter-terrorism efforts. In less than a year since President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. assumed office, eight human rights defenders and community organizers have involuntarily disappeared. By continuing to support the Philippine Government, Canada risks being complicit in serious and widespread human rights violations. Therefore, this issue needs to be addressed promptly.
The Philippine government passed the Anti-Terrorism Act in July 2020, which has raised concerns about potential violations of basic rights for critics under the guise of counter-terrorism. The Act’s definition of terrorism lacks clarity, causing confusion between lawful expressions of dissent and unlawful activities. Disregarding the rule of law, the government is now authorized to detain individuals without charges and make arrests. Security forces may view peaceful protests, advocacy, and humanitarian aid as acts of terrorism. This is a critical issue that demands prompt attention.
Our partners have reported that the counter-terrorism policies and programs of the Philippine Government do not meet the international standards for counter-terrorism and human rights obligations. The Voices at Risk guidelines provide an essential tool for supporting human rights defenders and upholding universal human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. Canada’s response to this issue serves as a test of its dedication to protecting human rights and those who defend them.
Minister Joly, we ask you to use the Philippine visit to convey, in public statements and your bilateral meetings with Philippine authorities, Canada’s ongoing concerns about the human rights violations perpetrated by Philippine security agencies in the fight against terrorism.
We urge you to call on the Philippine Government to:
- Repeal the Anti-Terror Law and recall Executive Order No. 70, creating a National Taskforce to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), stop all activities emanating from this order, including the escalation of smear campaigns and judicial harassment against human rights defenders and specifically, call on Philippine authorities to surface the eight human rights defenders, who have involuntarily disappeared in the past 11 months, alive and safe;
- End impunity and prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations, and
- Adhere to and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Declaration of Human Rights, and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights instruments to which the Philippines is a party and signatory.
The Reverend Doctor Patricia M. Lisson
Chairperson of ICHRP-Canada