Stop the legal persecution of peasant leader Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, other land and human rights defenders in the Philippines

Press Statement

PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) joins our friends and colleagues in the Philippines in expressing alarm over and in strongly denouncing what appears to be a case of harassment using the local judicial system against peasant leader Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano and other known human rights activists in the country.

A local trial court has recently issued arrest orders for Ka Paeng and others for what are seen as fabricated charges filed 12 years ago and suddenly revived this week. Irregularities apparently mar the cases as the local court involved changed its earlier ruling that the complaints against Ka Paeng and his colleagues did not meet the standards for probable cause.

Ka Paeng is among PANAP’s most committed partners in our campaign against land grabbing and for the people’s right to land and for food sovereignty. He was a long time national chairperson of PANAP-partner organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP/Peasant Movement of the Philippines) and co-chairperson of PANAP’s Task Force on Food Sovereignty. For decades now, Ka Paeng has been tirelessly working for the rights of the poor and marginalized in the Philippines – as a peasant leader since the Marcos dictatorship and a lawmaker representing small farmers in the House of Representatives for nine years – and in the region as chairperson of the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC).

Ka Paeng’s commitment in defending and promoting the interest and welfare of Filipino farmers was acknowledged by no less than the current administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte when he was appointed Secretary of the country’s agrarian reform ministry in 2016. During his short stint, he attempted to distribute land to agrarian reform beneficiaries and put a stop to land conversion which is among the main causes of landlessness, displacement and impoverishment in the rural areas in the Philippines.

Amid growing concerns on the reported prevailing culture of impunity in the country, we support the call for Philippine authorities to ensure that the civil and political rights of Ka Paeng are respected and protected, and to stop the systematic persecution of advocates of the people’s right to land and of human rights. ###