Defend Development Workers and Human Rights Advocates

May 27, 2024

The Center of Environmental Concerns – Philippines Inc. condemns the series of attacks on development workers and human rights advocates. In the past weeks, two non-government organizations namely Center for Development Inc. (LCDe) and Community Empowerment Resource Network, Inc. (CERNET) have been falsely accused of “terrorist financing” charges.


These incidents are a dangerous precedent and threaten the work of development workers and human rights advocates. Instead of supporting organizations that provide much-needed humanitarian aid and other social services to poor and marginalized communities which the government was not able to provide, they are vilified and repressed.


On May 03, 2024, The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) froze five bank accounts of LCDe and the personal accounts of its Executive Director, Jazmin Aguisanda Jerusalem, and other staff (1). The LCDe is a response non-government and development-oriented organization (NGDO) that has been working towards a citizenry-based disaster response and sustainable community development. They also won numerous awards for humanitarian work and disaster risk reduction and emergency awards for years of service (2). As an effect, the charges have disrupted LCDe’s service delivery to climate-vulnerable communities.


While on May 08, 2024, The DOJ Task Force on Counter-Terrorism and Terrorism Financing charged CERNET council, board members, guilty of Republic Act (RA) No. 10168, The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012 for allegedly providing P135,000.00 to the New People’s Army (3). CERNET is a network of humanitarian and development organizations in the Visayas region focused on enhancing the economic, political, and cultural conditions of people’s organizations and grassroots communities. Like LCDe, the communities and organizations that depend on CERNET’s services are directly affected, hence again depriving them of basic services. 


We are now seeing how laws are weaponized against those who respond and address issues hindering genuine development. These policies include RA No. 10168 and RA No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. In addition, Executive Order 70 (2018) which established the National Task Force to End Local Armed Conflict also paved the way for the red-tagging of development workers which often happened before other types of human rights violations. 


The attacks on development workers are attacks on people’s rights and the Filipino people in general. If the Marcos Jr. administration wants to achieve genuine development for the Filipino people, it should work hand in hand with them in their advocacies and not treat them as enemies.