Karapatan head Palabay gets HR prize from French, German embassies
MANILA, Philippines—The head of the human rights group Karapatan (Rights) received recognition from the French and German embassies here for “exceptional contribution to the protection and promotion of human rights and the rule of law” in the Philippines.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, became the third Filipino to receive the Franco-German Human Rights Prize since its inception in 2016.
Palabay was nominated by the French and German embassies in Manila for her advocacy work on social justice, women and children’s rights, and the defense of freedom of speech and expression.
As secretary general of Karapatan, she was also recognized for her efforts in providing legal and material assistance to political prisoners, victims and families of torture and other human rights violations.
In her speech, Palabay thanked the activists, rights workers and survivors whose “tenacity, commitment and collective strength” had helped her and her colleagues withstand numerous risks and threats.
“They tried to bury us—human rights workers who work and struggle with communities that have been deprived of rights, freedoms, and liberties,” she said. “They didn’t know we are seeds: The kind of seeds that grow in the most brutal environment of political storms.”
Palabay’s international feat stands in stark contrast to the Philippine government’s treatment of her and her home organization, which is often vilified and red-tagged by the state’s counterinsurgency task force as communist fronts.
German Ambassador to the Philippines Anke Reiffenstuel said the award sought to recognize human rights workers and defenders working amid an increasingly hostile political environment.
“What we see today is that human rights is increasingly being challenged and pressured. Working on safeguarding, often struggling to keep the status quo and not to allow a rollback,” she said.
French Ambassador to the Philippines Michèle Boccoz said she recognized how human rights defenders, like Palabay, “have remained strong and inspiring even in the face of danger the protection. Human rights defenders deserve our admiration and our support.”
Palabay’s award comes at the heels of Rappler CEO’s Maria Ressa’s Nobel Peace Prize, the first Filipino to win the prestigious award.
Palabay joins this year’s roster of 15 human rights workers across the world who were also recognized for their advcacy work: Monica Borgmann (Lebanon), Narges Mohammadi (Iran), Nebahat Akkoç (Turkey), Erika Aifán (Guatemala), May Sabe Phyu (Myanmar), Noelah Godfrey Msuya (Tanzania), Tabelo Timse (South Africa), Shahrzad Akbar (Afghanistan), Chang Wei Ping (China), Jacques Létang (Haiti), Alexandrine Victoire Saizonou (Benin), Ajna Jusic (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Jake Epelle (Nigeria) and Rafael Uzcátegui (Venezuela).
She is also the third Filipina to receive the prestigious award, following rights defender and Philippine Aliance of Human Rights Advocates secretary general Rosemarie Trajano (2017) and Mary Aileen Bacalso, secretary general of the Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances (2019).
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