Asserting people's rights is not a crime. Our partners in the Philippines under threat

Representatives of the Philippine government – and especially the military – have launched accusations recently against different social organizations, including some of Viva Salud's partners. Allegedly, human rights organizations, women's organizations and other civil society groups would be mere front organizations for 'terrorist' groups. According to some reports in the Philippine media, the Philippines has requested Belgium to stop funding these organizations through Belgian NGOs like Viva Salud.

Viva Salud has been working with partners in the Philippines for decades. We have been financing their programs, built solidarity relations and helped them in other ways. Our local partners are held in high esteem internationally and, even more importantly, enjoy the support of large local social movements. Moreover, as an NGO we are well aware of our responsibility towards our donors and we have our own monitoring system and procedures to ensure the quality of their work and the proper use of funds.

Sadly, the criminalization of Philippine civil society organizations is nothing new and dates back to the Marcos dictatorship. It has been exposed by international agencies and personalities, including the former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston in his 2008 report on his mission to the Philippines. More recently, accusations against environmental activists, church workers and other human rights defenders have escalated. Therefore, accusations against some of our partners are unfortunate but not surprising.

That is also why we are cooperating with any efforts to refute the accusations against our partners. No evidence whatsoever has been made public to support these accusations against our partners. We are confident that no irregularities will be brought to light. Our only fear is for the physical integrity and safety of our friends and partners in the Philippines, whose courage and determination in the midst of these attacks is absolutely remarkable and deserves our unwavering solidarity.