Philippines: Education unionists targeted by Duterte regime in escalating human rights violations

published 19 July 2021 updated 13 October 2023

The Second Report of the Independent International Commission of Investigation into Human Rights Violations in the Philippines (Investigate PH) was released this month. The report documents intensifying human rights violations perpetrated by state agents, in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s security policies and violent statements that have been adopted as official orders.

The Report highlights three aspects of state terror in the Philippines: The War against the Poor (under the guise of the “war on drugs”), the War on Dissent, and the War against the Moro People.

Education unionists under attack

The report identifies the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Education International member organisation in the Philippines, as one of the main targets of human rights violations. An unrelenting “red-tagging” campaign seeks to vilify public sector trade unions, including ACT, branding them communist fronts.

In addition to public statements against the union, the regime has also directly persecuted union leaders. The report gives the example of Rosanilla Consad, ACT Region XIII Union Secretary and Assistant Vice Principal of San Vicente National High School. She was arrested on a fabricated charge of attempted homicide in March 2021. Subjected to interrogation without her legal counsel, she was presented in a press conference as a “high ranking” official of the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The report also notes that teachers and union leaders have been the victims of extrajudicial killings committed by police and the military.

“The killing machine perfected in the War on Poor People is now being turned on human rights defenders and political opponents of government policy. In “tokhang”-style raids, police and military in Negros, Panay, and Southern Tagalog have extrajudicially killed farmer leaders, city councillors, teachers, lawyers, doctors, peasant leaders, human rights defenders, trade unionists, indigenous leaders and urban poor organisers in their own homes or going to or from their work.”

Reacting to the report, David Edwards, Education International General Secretary and High-Level Commissioner of Investigate PH, stated:

“This solid report highlights the extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and detentions, harassments, and other forms of violations of human rights suffered by the leaders and members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and of other Education International affiliates in the Philippines. Our contribution to this report is another step to ensure that teachers, academics, trade unionists, journalists, human rights defenders and other civil rights activists, who are or are perceived to be in the opposition, are protected at all times.”

Urgent international action is imperative

This is the second in a series of three Investigate PH reports. It builds on the findings of the First Report launched in March 2021, which further substantiated the June 2020 report of the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights.

The report includes an important series of recommendations, including a clear call for a UN-led probe on the human rights violations of the Duterte administration.

The release of the Second Report follows the recent request by Fatou Bensouda, International Criminal Court outgoing Chief Prosecutor, for an investigation into President Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs”. Its launch also coincided with the 47th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The report will be submitted to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, member states of the Human Rights Council, the UN Secretary-General, and the International Criminal Court.

The Report and its executive summary are available here.

Education International has been actively supporting its member organisations in the Philippines as they defend human and trade union rights, as well as the right of all students to quality public education.