AMNESTY International (AI) Philippines vice chairperson Romeo Cabarde Jr. slammed the attacks on independent institutions and individuals that defend human rights.

“We feel that the attacks are being done to democratic institutions and we need to maintain a separation for democracy to succeed,” Cabarde said.

The AI called on the Philippine government to halt its wave of dangerous attacks on human rights defenders and international institutions, reminding it to protect human rights defenders and guarantee that they may carry out their work freely without any imminent danger from reprisals.

“Amnesty International Philippines is concerned not only for the safety and well-being of human rights defenders and those being tagged as ‘persons of interest’ but ultimately, for those voiceless individuals – the poor victims, the disadvantaged, and the minorities, whom these people, being demonized by the government, are working for. President Duterte should stop his dangerous attacks on human rights defenders and realize that the only way to quell protest in this equation is not to gag it but to take away the cause of inequality leading to further injustices, and to listen to the people and what we clamor for,” Cabarde added.

Amnesty International’s global human rights report covering 159 countries and territories highlighted extrajudicial executions, freedom of expression, human rights defenders, and internal armed conflict as pressing human rights issues in the Philippines.

Last week, AI Philippines set a press conference for the Northern Luzon leg of its state of the world’s human rights report 2017/18 launch in Baguio City.

“We would like to end our rolling launch with a celebration of the brave. The past year saw how world leaders rolled back on hard-won human rights and in so doing, gave an impetus for the resurgence of protest movements. Proving that when governments push their citizens against the wall by blatantly disregarding their fundamental freedoms, they will fight back to demand for justice rather than give in to narratives of fear,” Cabarde said.

Beverly Longid, global coordinator, international Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation and co-chair, CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness lauded Baguio City Councilors Art Allad-iw and Faustino Olowan who sponsored the resolution to delist her name and others unjustly named in the petition.

“Such is a bold and brave move by the City Council as they might suffer from the ire of Malacañang. However, it is also encouraging for the people knowing that public officials stand up when the State who is duty bound to respect and uphold the peoples' democratic rights and interests is the #1 violator of peoples' rights. I urge other local authorities to do the same. It is comforting to know that with the resolution - Baguio City - the place where I grew up and studied, and another home for me - might serve as a sanctuary for me and other activists under attack,” added Longid.