PHILIPPINES: State of emergency must not be used to attack human rights defenders

This Friday, February 24, 2006 a state of emergency was declared in the Philippines. Through Proclamation No. 1017 the president has banned all public rallies and greatly restricted constitutional rights, alleging that, “A tactical alliance [is engaging] in a concerted and systematic conspiracy, over a broad front, to bring down the duly constituted government”. There are reports of an attempted coup, although the proclamation does not refer to one specifically.

There can be little doubt that the primary objective of this declaration is to stifle growing public protests against the current government. It comes at a time of planned demonstrations to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the toppling of the authoritarian Marcos regime: the most important landmark in the country’s modern struggle for democracy and human rights. These gatherings have been planned as a way to reinvigorate people with the spirit of 1986, and to nurture the values embodied by the “people’s power” uprising. The rallies were also expected to be used by many to voice discontent with the current administration.

In states of emergency the groups and persons that come under attack most are those that insist upon their rights to free expression and assembly, particularly those engaged in human rights work. Therefore, there is well-founded fear among human rights defenders in the Philippines that this proclamation may soon lead to arbitrary arrests and detention, and wanton violence.

The Asian Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned for the wellbeing and safety of all Filipinos at this time, especially human rights defenders and social activists. Its calls for firm public commitments from the president of the Philippines and other government officials that these persons will not be made targets, and those engaging in peaceful public protest will not be met with violence by the security forces. Let the spirit of 1986–a spirit of peaceful protest, not bloodshed–live on.

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AS-029-2006
Countries : Philippines,