Canada urged to cut anti-terror aid to Duterte government

HUMAN rights advocates and critics of President Rodrigo R. Duterte have asked Canada to cut anti-terrorism aid to the Philippines, which they said was being used to stifle dissent.

The Filipinos cited rampant killings and arbitrary arrests of activists during a hearing by Canada’s parliamentary subcommittee on international human rights on Wednesday morning Manila time, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) said in an e-mailed statement.

“Perjured testimonies, fabricated evidence, questionable search warrants are used for arbitrary arrests and detention,” Karapatan Philippines Secretary-General Christina Palabay told the body. “We eat death, rape and sexual violence threats online and offline. Canadian dollars and taxes should not be used to kill and silence us.”

She said 15 of her colleagues were among the 394 civilians who died under the Duterte government’s counterinsurgency campaign in the past five years.

She added that 68% of 703 political prisoners in the country had been arrested during Mr. Duterte’s rule.

The Canadian body held the hearing to look at the human rights situation in the Philippines, the human rights group said.

Presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. did not immediately reply to a text message seeking comment.

The hearing was held almost two months after nine Filipino activists were killed in a police raid in the Southern Tagalog region.

“Majority of those killed are land rights, indigenous and environmental activists,” Ms. Palabay told the subcommittee. “These figures add to the thousands killed in the government’s drug war, creating a climate of fear and impunity in the country.”

Mr. Duterte last year signed a measure expanding crimes against terror, which critics said was being used to silence the President’s critics.

Ms. Palabay said community pantries and kitchens, relief and fact-finding missions, universities, journalists, doctors, lawyers, church people and opposition members have been labeled communists.

“In our view, this is a murderous campaign in violation of the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants under international humanitarian law and a militarist or strongman approach which trumps civilian authority and interests,” she said.

“We implore the Canadian government to take action on these concerns with urgency, as our country further descends into an authoritarian state.”

“As we face the coronavirus, there’s an equally dangerous and insidious virus of lies unleashed in our information ecosystem,” Filipino journalist Maria Ressa told the committee. “It’s seeded by power wanting to stay in power, spread by algorithms motivated by profit,” she said, citing state attacks on the press.

“The virus of lies is highly contagious, and they infect real people, who become impervious to facts. It changes the way they look at the world. They become angrier, more isolated.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza