The Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Dear Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,
We write today with a heavy heart about what is happening in the Philippines and this may not have caught the attention of the Canadian government especially with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Philippine government’s callous response to violence and political killings against human rights defenders and community activists in the Philippines alarms many overseas Filipinos in Canada. The Armed Forces of the Philippines under the current Duterte government continues to be implicated in human rights abuses and violations. Philippine human rights organization KARAPATAN has documented the killings of more than 300 leftist activists and human rights defenders under the Duterte government. The majority of these killings, which rarely result in prosecutions, are strongly linked to military and paramilitary groups.
The recent brutal killings this August of peace consultant Randall Echanis and community health worker and rights defender Zara Alvarez mark a new level of terror and threat against those critical of the rules and policies of the Duterte government. In April, relief worker Jory Porquia was killed in the same manner. The killings fit into a broad pattern of targeted attacks against activists, members of the political opposition, leaders of grassroots organizations and human rights defenders. Silencing dissent through political killings is simply beyond the pale.
On June 4, 2020, the United Nations High Commission issued a report on the situation in the Philippines. The report identifies human rights violations arising from policies and laws related to public order and national security. On June 25, 2020, eleven United Nations human rights experts declared that “the human rights situation in the Philippines has now reached a level of gravity requiring a robust intervention by the UN.”
Government institutions such as the military and defense are linked to the ongoing violence and gross human rights violations and these are the same institutions which enjoy Canada’s support for its military budget for years. It is in this light that we demand the strongest possible diplomatic intervention from Canada in response to gross human rights violations and abuses in the Philippines.
The Filipino diaspora and friends write to request that your office support the UN High Commissioner’s report, and that your office aid in the establishment of independent mechanisms to monitor and investigate human rights violations. We would very much appreciate the opportunity for our community to have a dialogue with you and to discuss our concerns and the recommendations in this letter. These are:
1. Publicly support the UN High Commission for Human Rights report on the Philippines and its recommendations.
2. Support the call of United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) to create an independent international investigation into the murder of Randal Echanis, Zara Alvarez and all victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines as well the creation of a mechanism for the independent monitoring and investigation, including ensuring that Special Procedures mandate holders have access to the country.
3. End all defense and military assistance to Philippine government, including training and equipment, given the implication of the Philippine military and police in extrajudicial killings, illegal detentions, torture and other violations of human rights, and instead redirect Canada’s assistance towards strengthening the capacity of human rights defenders and organizations.
4. Suspend all Canadian support and loans for projects in the Duterte government especially Canadian-funded military assistance; invoke the Special Economic Measures Act which can be used to prohibit the transfer or trade of goods to a specific country because of their human rights record.
5. Respond to the recommendation of the eleven United Nations human rights experts that Member States initiate, whenever possible, governmental sanctions and criminal prosecution against individual Philippine officials who have committed, incited or failed to prevent human rights abuses.
We look forward to your response to these urgent and concerns about terrible human rights violations in the Philippines. We welcome the opportunity to discuss these recommendations.