Press Release
March 10, 2018

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831
Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580

Surveillance equipment from UK may be used by PH gov’t to spy on activists, rights defenders

Karapatan today scored the recently reported sale of $200,000 British surveillance equipment to the Philippine government, in the light of the listing of more than 600 persons, human rights defenders and critics of the Duterte government in the proscription petition filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) at a regional court in Manila on February 21, 2018 seeking to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as terrorist organizations.

Said petition included the name of United Nations Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli Corpuz, individuals involved in the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, as well as names of activists and human rights defenders in Cordillera, Southern Tagalog, Negros, and Mindanao.

On March 9, 2018, British Member of Parliament (MP) Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a member of the parliamentary committee on arms export controls, said in an interview that the government of the United Kingdom has sold to the Philippine government nearly $200,000 worth of spying equipment including IMSI-Catchers, which are used to eavesdrop on telephone conversations, and surveillance tools to monitor internet activity.

“Under the Human Security Act of 2007, surveillance through wiretapping of private communications of organizations or individuals considered ‘terrorists,’ suspected ‘terrorists,’ those suspected of aiding or supporting suspected terrorists is legalized. There is significant possibility that the said British spyware sold by the UK to the Duterte government will be used, if not being already used illegally, against activists and human rights defenders, whether or not their names are in the said proscription list,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General.

While the British MP situated the said UK spyware sale in the context of Duterte’s war on drugs and the consequent killing of thousands of Filipinos, Palabay said these kinds of equipment were used against focused targets in the context of counterinsurgency programs of the Philippine government against so-called “enemies of the state.”

“DOJ’s list is no different from the order of battle list by previous regimes, which are being drawn up by the military in furtherance of these counter-insurgency programs. Persons listed in the OB have been subjected to surveillance followed by threats, harassment, arrest on false charges, detention, torture, disappearance or extrajudicial killing. Thus, the government’s recent acquisition of surveillance equipment from other countries such as the UK is a cause for concern,” Palabay emphasized.

“Amid the spiraling climate of impunity and intensifying rights violations in the Philippines, we call on the British people and Filipino migrants in the UK to oppose this surveillance equipment deal and intensify support for human and people’s rights in the Philippines,” Palabay concluded.


Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.