Remembering Martial Law in the Philippines

The delegation consisted of not only human rights advocates but also victims of the regime, or people who lost their loved in tragic ways and are ready to share the stories of their martyria with the international community. 

The group shared a general briefing on the human rights situation in the Philippines and their international efforts to raise awareness about the situation in their country. 

The delegation was led by Bishop Melzar Labuntog, general secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, who also serves on the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. The bishop reiterated a statement he made at the 54th Session of the UN Human Rights Council. 

We express our concern about the continuing arbitrary arrests and detentions in the Philippines and the practice of filing trumped-up charges against human rights defenders,” said Labuntog. Our prison congestion rates are among the highest in the world, and yet people continue to be arrested for simply speaking up against the government.”

According to human rights monitor Karapatan, 776 political prisoners are detained on false charges as of June 2023. Among them are two pastors from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, Rev. Nathaniel Vallente and Pastor Jimmy Teves.

We thus urge the UN Human Rights Council to call on the Philippine government to stop the practice of arbitrary arrests and detention and to repeal the Anti-Terrorism Act,” said Labuntog. 

Attorney Kristina Conti, National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, was also part of the delegation. She offered an overview of the growing number of forced disappearances, detained people, and false charges. 

My organization is one of the largest human rights organizations in the Philippines,” she said. The stifling of dissent in the Philippines is so massive and so pervasive that we have to leave the Philippines to tell the rest of the world what is happening.”

She expressed three major concerns: extrajudicial killings, trumped-up charges, and red-tagging. In the Philippines almost everybody is under attack,” she said. We really need the help of the international community.”