[Photo credit: Defend Southern Tagalog]
The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of the Philippines on 4 August 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. The Government replied on 6 October 2022.
This is a shorter version of the original communication.
Topic: the arrest and detention of environmental woman human rights defender Ms. Vertudez “Daisy” Macapanpan.
Ms. Vertudez “Daisy” Macapanpan is a 69 year old environmental woman human rights defender who has for many years advocated peacefully in defence of the environment in Southern Luzon, the Philippines. She is the lead convenor of Protect Sierra Madre for the People and a member of the Network Opposed to Kaliwa-Kanan- Laiban Dam movement. She has been leading opposition to the proposed Ahunan Pumped-Storage Hydropower Project in Mount Inumpong in the Sierra Madre, which local communities believe could affect their drinking water, religious practices and could lead to increased flooding during typhoon season.
On 11 June 2022, at 16:00, over 20 armed police and military agents entered Ms. Vertudez Macapanpan’s home in the village of Barangay Burgos, Pakil, Laguna province. Ms. Macapanpan was handcuffed and dragged to the police car. She repeatedly asked the officers why she was being arrested, but they reportedly did not give her an answer. Police officers also initially refused to tell family members where Ms. Macapanpan was being taken. The arrest came several hours after Ms. Macapanpan spoke at a community meeting opposing the Ahunan Pumped Storage Hydropower Project in Pakil, Laguna. Ms. Macapanpan was brought to Quezon Provincial Police Office in Camp General Nakar, in Lucena city. There, she was presented a warrant on the charge of “rebellion” in relation to an incident that took place in 2008. The warrant lists a number of aliases and names, among which Ms. Macapanpan’s name does not appear. Ms. Macapanpan did not know of the existence of the investigation prior to her arrest. The incident reportedly relates to an armed encounter between the Philippine Army and New People’s Army in Quezon Province in April 2008.
In the first few days after her arrest, the Macapanpans’ lawyer was reportedly verbally harassed by chief of police at the General Nakar Police Station, whenhe came to request legal documents pertaining to the case. He was allegedly called a “communist lawyer” and some legal documents were withheld from him. Similarly, some members of Ms. Macapanpan’s family who came to visit Ms. Macapanpan were accused by the chief of police as being members of the New People’s Army.
Ms. Macapanpan was held at General Nakar Municipal Police Station for five days before she was transferred to Pagbilao District Jail for COVID-19 quarantine. A week later, she was moved to Lucena City District Jail in Quezon province, where she is currently detained.
On 16 June 2022, Ms. Macapanpan’s legal counsel filed an urgent motion to quash, on the basis that the warrant does not “state her name or any description by which she can be identified.” The prosecutor was given 10 days to comment on the motion to quash, which it failed to do. On 5 July, Ms. Macapanpan’s lawyer requested the court to resolve the filed motion to quash.
Ms. Macapanpan’s family have reportedly been further intimidated since her arrest. On 29 June 2022, a military tank and army truck parked beside Ms. Macapanpan’s home and police presence has reportedly increased in the area since her arrest.
I the communication we expressed our deep concern at the alleged arbitrary arrest and detention of woman human rights defender Ms. Vertudez “Daisy” Macapanpan, which we fear may be in retaliation for her work opposing the Ahunan Pumped-Storage Hydropower Project. We are concerned by the alleged lack of due process that has been followed, in particular regarding the arrest warrant, which was reportedly not presented to her at the time of arrest, and which does not list Ms. Macapanpan among the accused. We are additionally concerned by allegations that the prosecution has not complied with the courts request for comment on the motion to quash.
Furthermore, we find it disturbing that Ms. Macapanpan, her lawyers and family have been intimidated and red-tagged by members of the police and armed forces. We have previously communicated concerns to your Excellency’s Government about widespread red-tagging of human rights defenders (see for example PHL 6/2021 sent on 28 October 2021, PHL 5/2021 sent on 8 October 2021, PHL 3/2021 sent on 27 May 2022 among many others) which seeks to delegitimise and creates misunderstanding about their work and puts them at increased risk of attacks, threats and smears. We fear that the detention and red-tagging of Ms. Macapanpan will have a devastating impact on her human rights work defending a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, regardless of the outcome of the case, and urge your Excellency’s government to take measures to safeguard and support her work.