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“Thinning democratic space” alarms CHR

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By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

DIFFICULT TIMES

DIFFICULT TIMES. Commission on Human Rights Cordillera Regional Office chief Atty. Rommel Daguimol admitted that their office is having a hard time dealing with the Duterte administration in addressing human rights concerns in the country.

BAGUIO CITY — The Commission on Human Rights expressed alarm over the “thinning democratic space” caused by  “compromised state instrumentalities” during a forum on July 22 on the true state of the nation in the city.

“In a way, we are alarmed sa nangyayari ngayon. Our democratic space is now thinning,” said Attorney Rommel Daguimol, director of the Commission on Human Rights Cordillera Regional Office.

He said that in the implementation of Executive Order (EO) 70, many organizations are red-tagged “under the ambit that they support the [National Democratic Front].” According to him, the government institutionalized this practice and now part of its education and information campaign program.

President Duterte signed EO 70 in December last year to institutionalize the “whole-of-nation approach” and created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). This mandates the military, police and civilian agencies work closely with each other in combating the communist rebels.

“In many forums that we have attended this information dissemination was introduced to all sectors including [civil society organizations] and partners including the [Regional Development Council] and other mechanisms in the region,” he said.

He said that the government placed so many legal organizations and esteemed individuals in their list of supposed communist rebel supporters, making it a primary concern for the CHR. The CHR official stressed that red-tagging puts human rights defender in danger.

“Mahirap kapag naredtagged ka. Yung feeling of being not secured and being a target by hindi natin alam. Ganun ang nagyayari, maging sa CHR. There remains the fear at the back of the mind of human rights defenders,” he said.

Compromised mechanisms

According to him, the three powerful state instrumentalities, the executive, legislative and courts are already compromised, making human rights work and advocacy difficult even for the commission. He underscored that Duterte is even openly attacking CHR chairperson Chito Gascon.

“Ang hirap kausapin ng gobierno considering that CHR serves as the conscience of the government. Lahat ng mga opinion ng CHR ay ini-etsapwera lang,” he said.

Asked if what made CHR overly concern on the issue of red-tagging and killings compared during the time of President Gloria Arroyo, he explained that human rights situation is now worse than before because human rights mechanisms are not functional.

He said that during the Arroyo administration, the government responded to the pressure of the United Nations and allowed Philip Alston, UN rapporteur on indigenous peoples and human rights to investigate. These provided narratives for the UN Human Rights Council to release a report on the extent of rights violations in the country during that time.

“Ngayon medyo mas grabe, wala talaga tayong mechanism kahit man lang pahapyaw na solusyunan ang human rights concern,” he said.

Lawyer Jose Molintas of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said that revolution starts where there is an injustice.

Molintas was included in the Department of Justice’s terror tag list. He said that the list is an admission of how the government sees him. He said it allowed him to defend himself and debunk the accusation.

“We are in a situation now where lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and the people are being pushed to fear by the State. This should not be. Huwag tayong matakot. Pag matatakot tayo, lalo tayong tatakutin. Magkaisa tayo at lumaban.” # nordis.net

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