Farmers support the newly-formed Citizens Rights Watch Network

A farmers’ group today expressed support for the newly-launched Citizens Rights Watch Network (CRWN), a network of individuals and organizations that aims to unite and mobilize local and international support for Filipino communities and sectors whose democratic, civil, and political rights are under attack. “This is an exercise of our rights and liberties in the face of a growing state terror.”

“Peasant communities and activists advancing land rights are always under attack from state forces. The recent massive militarization that led to the evacuation of 18,000 individuals in Himamaylan, Negros Occidental, and the successive killings in Batangas and Quezon provinces are just among thousands of cases of human rights violations affecting farmers and the rural population. CRWN can substantially help us amplify the human rights situation of farmers and fisherfolks nationwide,” according to Danilo Ramos, chairperson of KMP.

According to the new network, the shrinking democratic space and intensified political repression make it harder for Filipinos to fight for their socioeconomic rights and well-being. “The socio-economic crisis that has been brewing for decades has grown exponentially worse after the COVID-19 pandemic. This is evidenced by the latest 7.7% inflation rate as of October and the massive joblessness of nearly 3 million Filipinos.

The network will help bolster efforts of urban and rural poor communities, labor unions, schools, churches, and even virtual spaces to exercise their rights and liberties in the face of repeated attempts by the NTF-ELCAC and other state agencies to sow terror, confusion, and intimidate Filipinos into silence and inaction, thus preventing them from pursuing their struggles for genuine land reform, decent jobs and livelihoods, better housing and other social services, less corruption and more transparency and accountability in government.

“Farmers are in unity and solidarity with activists, members of the opposition, media and the academe, the religious sector, celebrities, artists and acclaimed authors, government employees, and ordinary folk exercising their right to organize, assemble and seek redress for their grievances. These sectors are often subjected to red tagging/terrorist labeling that aims to delegitimize valid criticism and dissent. Such repressive actions by the NTF-ELCAC also justify the harassment, intimidation, illegal arrest, and killing of persons and groups unjustly branded as enemies of the state. The whole-of-nation approach under Executive Order No. 70, together with the draconian Anti-Terror Law, now serves as the legal infrastructures for authoritarian rule,” Ramos said.

In a reprise of Duterte’s reviled Oplan Tokhang, joint teams of police, military, and NTF-ELCAC operatives are systematically conducting house-to-house in many communities, forcing members of farmers groups, workers unions, urban poor associations, and non-government organizations to renounce their membership in these organizations, “clear” their names and “surrender” under pain of being targeted as communist-terrorist rebels or supporters. They are often paraded as “rebel returnees,” ordered to join NTF-ELCAC-sponsored counter-organizations, and conduct surveillance on their neighbors.

The new network may initiate community-based human rights training and seminars, stakeholder meetings and dialogues, legal consultations and actions, fact-finding and humanitarian missions, information and advocacy campaigns, community mobilizations, lobbying, among others. CRWN will also monitor the implementation and work for the repeal of laws and policies that undermine our peoples’ civil liberties and human rights as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among these are RA 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and Executive Order No. 70 which established the NTF-ELCAC.

CRWN shall also work with institutions mandated to protect and promote human rights such as the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and human rights mechanisms under the local government units. ###

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