Human rights alliance Karapatan decried on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022 the guilty verdict of Baguio City Regional Trial Court Branch 59 against Cordillera People’s Alliance secretary-general Sarah Dekdeken in the cyber-libel charges against her by former Cordillera Police Chief R’win Pagkalinawan.

The group said that her case is “proof that cyber libel and libel laws in the Philippines are weaponized against those who uphold and defend human rights.”

Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said that the outcome of the court case against Dekdeken is as unfortunate as the case of Rappler’s Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr., who were also given a guilty verdict by a lower court on the cyber-libel charges against them.

“Such charges are meant to harass and intimidate human rights defenders and journalists to report on the facts and ferret out the truth, especially in cases of human rights violations or issues or on corruption allegations. The thousands of cyber-libel and libel charges against journalists, for example, discourage them from practicing their profession. It is indeed high time that the decriminalization of cyber-libel and libel should be seriously considered and done,” she said.

Dekdeken is also among those who filed a petition of the writ of amparo and habeas data before the Court of Appeals. Karapatan said that the threats against Dekdeken and that of many activists in the Cordillera region should have been taken into account by the CA, along with the harassment suits filed against them.

“The pattern of threats, intimidation and judicial harassment against Dekdeken and other human rights defenders in the Cordillera is unmistakably similar to that of many other activists and dissenters in the country. Instead of providing legal protection for them, our judicial system has enabled this environment that renders them unsafe and vulnerable to various attacks,” Palabay said.

Karapatan expressed support for Dekdeken and other Cordillera-based human rights defenders.

“We stand in solidarity with Sarah Dekdeken as she faces this harassment suit, as we will continue to provide assistance to her through our regional chapter. We support all efforts for the decriminalization of cyber-libel and libel in the Philippines,” Palabay said.