Rights group leader gets death and rape threats on Human Rights Day

MANILA, Philippines – A woman human rights defender received calls and text messages threatening to have her killed and raped on December 10, otherwise known as International Human Rights Day and the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan, that day received a call and a series of text messages from an unknown number, threatening her with death and rape, according to a report by Front Line Defenders on Tuesday, December 17.

This comes amid the Duterte administration's massive crackdown on progressive groups.

Palabay was allegedly called a “whore” and a “prostitute dreamer” and was threatened to be thrown into the ocean by an anonymous sender, who also defended the Duterte government. Karapatan said the threats may have come from military or police agents, or an erratic follower of the Duterte government. 

This was not the first time Palabay had received threats of this nature. In July 2017, another anonymous caller told her to stop her human rights work as martial law was imposed in Southern Mindanao. 

Palabay’s group, Karapatan, has long criticized military and police abuses in Duterte’s watch. In 2018, the group said of the administration: “The year 2018 was Duterte’s kickoff for laying down the foundation for and engineering a dictatorship amid a mounting people’s protest movement against the attacks on individuals and communities.” 

Front Line Defenders, a group protecting human rights defenders at risk, said it “condemns the series of abusive threats, especially those that demean the woman human rights defender on the basis of her identity as a woman.” 

It also “believes that the rape and death threats received by Cristina Palabay are the direct consequence of her legitimate and peaceful work for the protection of human rights.” 

The group also raised the alarm on the “increasingly hostile environment for human rights defenders in the Philippines.”

According to Karapatan, at least 2,370 human rights defenders have been charged by the government from 2016 to 2019, the biggest number in more than a decade. (READ: Duterte's war on dissent

Cops in late 2019 raided several offices and residences of progressive groups in Metro Manila and Bacolod City, based on search warrants issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 89 Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert. 

On October 31, cops in Bacolod City arrested 56 persons affiliated with Bayan Muna, Kilusang Mayo Uno Gabriela, the National Federation of Sugar Workers, and other progressive organizations. (READ: Human rights defenders also killed under Duterte administration) 

On the same day, two members of Gabriela-Metro Manila and a Kadamay officer were arrested after a raid in Paco, Manila. Three more were detained during a raid on Bayan’s office in Tondo, Manilapast midnight November 5.

Authorities accused those arrested of being members of “legal fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The groups said the firearms and explosives recovered during the raids were planted. Rappler.com