Human rights defender
Czarina is a human rights defender from the Philippines. As a human rights lawyer, she is a member of the Union of Peoples Lawyers (UPLM) in Mindanao, and the National Union of Peoples Lawyers in the Philippines. Both organizations handle human rights cases involving oppressed and marginalized sectors of society, including peasants, workers, urban poor and indigenous peoples. Czarina mostly handles cases of national minorities, such as the Lumad people, as they exercise their rights as indigenous people, but also of workers who demand fair wages, and peasants calling out for land reform.
Human rights violations in the Philippines
The conditions under which Czarina is doing this work have become increasingly challenging under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. In order to suppress the people’s growing dissent against his administration the government passed the so-called Anti-Terror law which is highly problematic and constitutes a real threat to human rights defenders. Especially on the island of Mindanao which was already plagued by conflict and serious human rights abuses.
Threats and challenges
Czarina and her colleagues have been victims of red-tagging: being stigmatized as communists and belonging to the People’s Liberation Army who have been classified as a terrorist group by a number of countries, including the EU. Ever since Duterte’s rule, many critics have been red-tagged or otherwise stigmatized. Many fear that the recently adopted Anti-Terrorism law will make that even easier, and will be used to prosecute political opponents and anyone critical of the current administration.