Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI) expresses deep concern over the series of actions by state agents using the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act against human rights defenders, political activists, and most recently, social development practitioners who are passionate workers serving society’s most vulnerable and poorest communities.

For the past months, cases of harassment and intimidation have been hurled at personalities and groups implementing social development projects and humanitarian actions in many communities. They were designated as financially supporting terrorists and froze their funds intended for the communities they serve, including their personal accounts. An executive director of our member NGO, which provides alternative energy sources and technologies to far-flung communities without electricity and water, is among those implicated in a criminal case for allegedly supporting terrorist groups. The said NGO worker is implicated together with 26 of her former colleagues in connection with her work with her previous Visayas-based NGO.

These increasing threats and obstacles make it difficult for development organizations to serve poor communities that government institutions need to reach or where government social services are absent. We ask, “Why should the government persecute people doing their job of compensating and supplementing the government’s lack of resources and weaknesses in delivering social services?”

Worse, how can social development workers defend themselves when state institutions that should uphold the rule of law spread false and fake news against the “accused” NGO workers in their social media accounts? How do we hold accountable police agents when a police-verified social media page in Central Visayas posted a blurred mug shot of a CSO worker and claimed that she is among the most wanted personalities, arrested on May 17, 2024, and is currently detained for an alleged violation of the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act?  This false information from law enforcers only creates more confusion and fear in the community.

We lament and are enraged by this misuse of power and authority – to target and red-tag development workers serving vulnerable communities. This action from duty bearers violates human rights and undermines the principles of justice and due process. Further, this practice not only stifles the democratic freedom of people but, most significantly, endangers the lives of those falsely accused; as declared by the Supreme Court in a recent case, “red-tagging, vilification, labeling, and guilt by association threaten a person’s right to life, liberty, or security.”

We call on the Philippine government to immediately cease the practice of red-tagging and ensure that all allegations are thoroughly investigated and based on credible evidence. We demand that the government implement effective measures to protect human rights activists and social development workers from harassment and false accusations. We implore the government to respect and uphold the fundamental rights of every citizen to exercise their democratic rights and to hold those accountable for vilifying and maligning persons in public with false information, judgment, and accusations without due process.

PMPI stands in solidarity with all development workers, human rights defenders, and political activists in the Philippines who continue to work courageously despite the risks. These efforts are crucial in upholding human rights, promoting social justice, and fostering a more inclusive and democratic society.

Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc.
19 June 2024