The Observatory has been informed by Karapatan Alliance Philippines (Karapatan) about the release of Ms. Teresita Naul, a member of the Secretariat of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao – Cagayan de Oro Chapter and Coordinator in Northern Mindanao for Karapatan. Ms. Naul works for the protection of the right to health of vulnerable groups in the Philippines.
On October 28, 2021, Teresita Naul was released from Agusan del Sur Provincial Jail following the decision of Bayugan City Regional Trial Court – Branch 7 to dismiss all the charges against her. The Court ruled that the arrest warrant issued against Teresita Naul was defective and the complaints failed to indicate the name of the accused and her address with clarity, and hence concluded that there was a lack of evidence linking the accused with the alleged offence.
The Observatory recalls that Teresita Naul was arbitrarily arrested on March 15, 2020 in Lanao del Sur, on the southern island of Mindanao, by the national police and members of the Philippines Army (PA), on charges of “kidnapping”, “destructive arson” and “serious illegal detention” and detained in Agusan del Sur Provincial Jail until her release in October 2021. The police accused her of being a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) and participating in an attack on the military in Agusan del Sur in December 2018, although the evidence showed that she was in another part of the country that day.
The Observatory further recalls that Teresita Naul’s health deteriorated while in custody. A 64-year-old woman suffering from asthma and bronchitis conditions, she was kept detained in unsanitary conditions in the overcrowded Agusan del Sur Provincial jail, thus exposing her at high risk of COVID-19 infection.
The Observatory recalls that since President Duterte took power in June 2016, human rights defenders have faced relentless vilification and red-tagging with the aim to discredit their peaceful work and to silence all critical voices, thus creating a climate in which attacks against them are acceptable and legitimised. On March 7, 2021, nine human rights defenders were killed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the PA following President Duterte’s order to “ignore human rights” and “kill” communist rebels in any armed encounter with them.
Furthermore, those defending rights in the Philippines have been subjected to trumped-up charges and lengthy pre-trial arbitrary detention. Karapatan members have faced frequent harassment, criminalisation and attacks, including the killing of Ms. Zara Alvarez and the arbitrary detention of Alexander Philip Abinguna, Nimfa Lanzanas and Renalyn Tejero.
The Observatory welcomes the release of Teresita Naul and the Court’s ruling but underlines that she should never have been detained in the first place, her detention being arbitrary as it merely aimed at punishing her for her legitimate human rights activities.
The Observatory urges the Philippines authorities to provide Teresita Naul with adequate, effective, and prompt reparations for her arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and to release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the country.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of the Philippines asking them to:
i. Immediately provide Teresita Naul with adequate, effective, and prompt reparations for her arbitrary deprivation of liberty. Reparations should be proportional to the gravity of the violations and the harm suffered;
ii. Immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained in the Philippines;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against all human rights defenders in the Philippines, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.
- Mr. Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Republic of the Philippines, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message through http://president.gov.ph/contact-us/;
- Mr. Teodoro Locsin Jr, Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, Email: email@example.com;
- Hon. Menardo Guevarra, Secretary, Department of Justice of the Philippines, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon, Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Email: email@example.com;
- Police General Oscar Albayalde, Chief, Philippine National Police, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
- H.E. Mr. Evan P. Garcia, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Philippines to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: email@example.com;
- Embassy of the Philippines in Brussels, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Philippines in your respective countries.