Posted on Jun 05, 2021

On the William D. Zabel Human Rights Award for Karapatan

The following is a reposted statement from KARAPATAN, the national human rights coalition in the Philippines and one of ICHRP’s closest partners. The statement is regarding the presentation to KARAPATAN of the William D. Zabel Human Rights Award on June 6th, 2021.


The William D. Zabel Human Rights Award has been presented annually for more than three decades to fellow courageous activists in the frontlines of the struggle for freedom and human rights, and Karapatan is more than honored to be presented with this award today in this very challenging year for human rights defenders not only in the Philippines but also throughout the world.

We thank Human Rights First for this recognition of our work in defending and advancing people’s rights. Being a human rights defender in the Philippines is no easy work — and throughout the years, we have faced various forms of reprisals, threats, and harassment for the work that we do in exposing human rights violations and challenging State policies that endanger our hard-won rights and freedoms.

Our work and struggle for people’s rights and just and lasting peace has cost the lives of our brave and dedicated colleagues and many other activists and dissenters in the Philippines. Fifteen human rights workers from Karapatan have been killed in the past five years, nearly 70 since 2001, and many more are imprisoned or are facing judicial harassment and threats because of their tireless work in defending human rights.

Our Chairperson Elisa “Tita” Lubi and regional leaders Jayvee Apiag and Daisy “Jackie” Valencia, as well as national officers of Karapatan are among those facing trumped up charges, while our colleagues Teresita Naul, Alexander Philip Abinguna, Renalyn Tejero and Nimfa Lanzanas are in detention due to similar fabricated cases.

We cry out for justice over the killings of our fellow human rights workers under the Duterte administration: Zara Alvarez, Elisa Badayos, Bernardino Patigas Sr., Mariam Uy Acob, Ryan Hubilla, Nelly Bagasala, Billamin Hassan, Joseph Baning, Atty. Benjamin Ramos, Randy Malayao, Arnie Espenilla, Lizando Alcovendas, Pizo Cabug, and Aldren Enriquez. We likewise recall our colleagues Bishop Alberto Ramento, Eden Marcellana, Benjaline Hernandez, Fr. William Tadena, Rev. Edison Lapuz, Atty. Juvy Magsino, Prof. Jose Maria Cui, Fernando Baldomero, Romeo Capalla, William Bugatti and many others who were killed during the past administrations — whose killings have remained unresolved to this day.

The William D. Zabel Human Rights Award is a homage and tribute to their memory and legacy of selflessness, compassion and service to the poor and oppressed and we continue to honor them every day as we do the best that we can in advocacy, documentation, direct services and movement-building in the Philippines. We pay special tribute to Marie Hilao-Enriquez, our Chairperson Emeritus and a stalwart in the struggle for justice against Marcos’ martial law, and deceased Navy Captain Danilo Vizmanos, former Chairperson of the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), who have both steered Karapatan’s work since its establishment.

This award also comes at a crucial time, against the backdrop of a rapidly deteriorating human rights crisis and alarming democratic backsliding in the Philippines, and this award is a recognition of the tremendous challenges we currently face amid worsening attacks on human rights defenders, police brutality, militarization, and the narrowing of civic and democratic spaces in the country.

With the Duterte government’s brazen contempt for human rights and Karapatan — whom he has singled out as an “organization of demons” — and his campaign of red-tagging and terrorist-labelling to stifle and silence dissenting voices through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), this recognition is a strong statement of solidarity and an affirmation, above all, that the work that we do as human rights defenders is not a crime or terrorism — it is a just and essential endeavor in the midst of tyranny and oppression. Let this be a strong rebuke to the murderous ways of this administration and a clarion call for justice.

As we receive the William D. Zabel Human Rights Award today, we also thank Ego Nwodim for hosting the Human Rights First Spring Social as well as Annie Lennox, Jihae, and mxmtoon for their musical performances and the appearances of Ernie Hudson, Hill Harper, Leeza Gibbons, and Jihae to honor human rights defenders around the world. After all, this award is not only for us: it is for each and every person who believes in defending and advancing people’s rights.

Lastly, we urge the American public to call on the United States government to end military aid to the Philippines, and to stand with the struggle of the Filipino people for human rights, justice, and peace in the Philippines by not allowing their money to fund State violence and the Duterte government’s violent campaign of repression against Filipinos.

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