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On the political persecution of progressive leaders Paeng Mariano and Liza Maza, and other people’s rights defenders

Posted on 22 August 2018

Interface dialogue between people's organisations, the National Anti-Poverty Commission under Maza and other agencies (Photo by Manila Today)

IBON International stands with Philippine progressives Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano and Liza Maza as courts dismissed a decade-old fabricated case against them and two other progressives, Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casiño, last 14 August.

Mariano, a long-time land rights activist and former Secretary of the Philippines’ Department of Agrarian Reform, served in our Board of Trustees from 2016 to 2017. Maza is a member of the Steering Committee of the Consortium for People’s Development–Disaster Response (CPDDR), taking a leave in 2016 when she served in the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) until her resignation on 20 August 2018. She has also been an active leader for women’s rights internationally and former representative of the Gabriela Women’s Party.

Their presence in the work of IBON International has reminded us of the utmost importance of the role of farmers’ and women’s organisations in building rights-based and people-powered democracy. We also highlight Mariano and Maza’s efforts to ensure interface between their offices and people’s organisations – as exemplary cases of participatory governance that rightly puts primacy on people’s demands.

We stand with Maza in her recent decision to resign from being the Lead Convenor of the NAPC, amidst the huge stumbling blocks for development in the country. We support her efforts to continue the struggle for economic reforms and people’s development with grassroots movements in the lead. We also look forward to the continuation of her role within CPDDR, in developing capacities of people’s organisations and communities towards reducing climate vulnerability and building grassroots-based disaster risk-reduction initiatives.

Despite the positive court decision, we believe that there should have been, in the first place, no spurious charges against real and perceived critics of the government’s increasingly iron-fisted politics and persisting neoliberal policy trajectory.

Mariano and Maza’s casesare not isolated as there are – just under the current administration – at least 700 trumped-up cases filed against rights defenders and members of people’s organisations. [i] Such cases point to the harsh political climate for farmers, workers, indigenous peoples and other grassroots organisations in the Philippines and other Southern countries. In 2017, the Philippinesis the second most dangerous place for rights defenders, after Brazil and followed by Colombia. [ii]

We join the global call to end political persecution as well as other rights violations of people’s organisations and movements. This climate of persecution in the Philippines and other Southern countries are obstacles for people’s development. We affirm the need for policy and political space for grassroots organisations and their collective assertions of rights, which are essential if any development process leads to ending poverty, realising people’s rights, rural development and strategic industrial policy. ###

 

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