Crackdown vs rights defenders seen to escalate after election of Duterte allies — watchdog

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Crackdown vs rights defenders seen to escalate after election of Duterte allies � watchdog
In this Sept. 25, 2018 photo, members of local rights group Karapatan condemn the killing of human rights defender Mariam Uy Acob.
Facebook / Karapatan, Release

MANILA, Philippines — Attacks against human rights defenders might intensify following the election of allies of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Senate and the House of Representatives, a watchdog warned.

Nine allies of Duterte took the 12 seats at stake in the 24-member Senate in a race that saw the resounding loss of opposition aspirants. The upper house has traditionally served as a buffer against Duterte’s most controversial projects.

Loyalists of Duterte kept control of the House of Representatives, which has approved proposals to revive death penalty and rewrite the Constitution.

“As President Rodrigo Duterte’s authoritarian rule gets further strengthened after his candidates dominated the May 13 elections for the Philippine Senate, his all-out war on human rights defenders is likely to intensify,” the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders said in a release.

The Observatory was created by the partnership of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) and International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).

It called on the Philippine government to stop targeting human rights defenders, which the Observatory said are, “the very people who stand up for human rights, development and social justice for all.”

“Human rights defenders are not terrorists, criminals or enemies of the State. We call upon the authorities of the Philippines to re-open the space for civil society and to recognize the legitimacy of human rights defenders and protect them instead of slandering them,” the Observatory said.

Local rights group Karapatan had claimed a surge in the violations on the rights to freedom of associations and of human rights defenders.

It earlier sought relief from the Supreme Court over the perceived state red tagging of its members as being legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Philippine jurisprudence defines red-tagging as “the act of labelling, branding, naming and accusing individuals and/or organizations of being left-leaning, subversives, communists or terrorists (used as) a strategy... by State agents, particularly law enforcement agencies and the military, against those perceived to be ‘threats’ or ‘enemies of the State.’”

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