By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA – Upon signing a proclamation terminating the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), President Duterte declared that he would run after leftist “front organization.” President Duterte said he would charge them with conspiracy, which presidential spokesperson Harry Roque followed up with the threat of using the Philippine version of the anti-terrorism law, the Human Security Act, against them.
“The threat to arrest and file criminal charges against members of legitimate people’s organizations which this government has branded as ‘legal fronts’ of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), reeks of Marcosian rule. It is clearer than broad daylight, President Duterte is laying the ground for his impending tyrannical rule in response to the indisputably growing social unrest,” said lawyer Ephraim Cortez, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).
But even before the crackdown, reports of violations have been increasing by the day.
The whole month of November, Duterte and his military have launched various attacks in provinces, both against activists and unknowing civilians.
“President Duterte has failed the people big time. He cancelled the peace talks, and declared war against those groups and individuals who have remained firm and staunch in opposition to his anti-people policies and pronouncements. There is no change for the better with this regime, only a worsening of this already repressive system. With all-out state terror directed against the people, our only option is to resist,” said Evangeline Hernandez, chairperson of Hustisya, an organization of families and relatives of victims of human rights violations.
According to data of the Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan), a total of 98 politically-related extrajudicial killings and over a thousand illegal arrests, plus tens of thousands killed in the name of the war on drugs have been committed by the Duterte administration from July 2016 to September 2017. Some 422,000 have been forced to evacuate due to the heavy militarization of the area, especially in lumad schools, and aerials strikes conducted for the administration’s counterinsurgency and anti-terrorism programs.
End of peace talks, intensifying attacks
On Nov. 24, Duterte issued Proclamation 360 to formally end the peace talks with the Community Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF). Using the same reason of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in declaring nationwide martial law, Duterte cited that he was forced to terminate the peace talks due to the “violence and hostilities” of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
The next day Saturday, Nov. 25, Karapatan reported three separate incidents of attacks and harassment on activists and villages in Mindanao, which left one victim dead and the forced evacuation of 12 communities.
Apolonio Maranan, 64, a resident of DDF Village subdivision, Mandug village, Buhangin District, Davao City was shot dead by motorcycle riding men suspected to be intelligent agents of the 16th infantry battalion of the Philippine Army. Maranan, member of Anakpawis partylist , was shot dead at 7:49 p.m. as he went out to buy food for dinner.
Jay Apiag, secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region said Apolonio is the 54th victim of political killings in the region alone.
On Nov. 25, an Urgent Alert from Karapatan Caraga reported another case in the same area. Shortly before midnight, two masked men strafed the store of peasant leader Imelda Gagap, a former village chairperson of Maraiging village, Jabonga, Agusan Del Norte, and active member of UMAN-KMP. Gagap has been vocal against human rights violations by the 29th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army that is encamped in the area. She and her family survived the attack.
On Nov. 26, at 1 p.m., 12 mostly Lumad communities from Diatagon village, Lianga town and Buhisan village, San Agustin town, both in Surigao del Sur province, evacuated due to the build-up of government troops in the area.
Three days before, on Nov. 23, three trucks of soldiers started arriving in the community of Neptune in Diatagon, where they set up a checkpoint and required everyone passing through to sign in a logbook. On Nov. 25, soldiers were seen heading towards the communities of Kilometer 16 and Han-ayan in Diatagon, while a drone was heard and seen flying over the communities.
Among those who evacuated are 706 students from nine Lumad schools, and 51 teachers of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) and the Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur (Trifpss).
Human rights groups and other progressive organizations have been raising the alarm on attacks by the Duterte administration, through the military and paramilitary groups, even before the declaration of the termination of peace talks,
Before the Asean summit, in a span of three days, seven activists were arrested after being tagged as NPA supporters or members.
Killings, illegal arrests and detention and other rights abuses continued after the Asean summit.
On Nov. 16, Perfecto Hoyle, a leader of the Unyon sa mga Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte (UMAN), was shot in cold blood at around 7 p.m. by two unidentified men in Canaway village, Kitcharao, Agusan Del Norte province.
On Nov. 20, nine Batangas peasant activists were arrested by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) in Nasugbu. The nine formed part of a quick response team (QRT) to check on the condition of civilians following a clash between the military and NPA. After three days in detention, on Nov. 23, the provincial fiscal ordered their release for lack of evidence.
On Nov. 21, four men suspected to be state security agents visited the home of youth leader Kristine Cabardo, chairperson of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) in the Northern Mindanao Region (NMR) in Saray, Iligan City. The men asked her family of her whereabouts. Cabardo has vocally condemned the imposition of martial law in the entire Mindanao, the aerial bombings in Marawi City, and other human rights violations as part of what her group called Duterte’s “fascist dictatorship.”
On the same day, the fluvial protest led by Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Pamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya-Pilipinas) was stalled by elements of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Manila Police District (MPD). The activists were harassed, as state forces came rushing in with big speedboats and pointed guns at them. The MPD reasoned out that they were still on high alert because of the ASEAN Summit, which already ended the week before.
On Nov. 23, a chairperson of the Unyon ng Mag-uuma sa Agusan Del Norte – Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (UMAN-KMP), Vivicencio Sahay, was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Barangay Calamba, Cabadbaran City. He is the fifth farmer to be killed in Caraga in a span of five months.
On Nov. 24, Katungod-Northern Samar reported that three peasants: Richard Avino, Teny Gerbon, and Arnel Aquino, were arrested at around 7 o’clock in the morning and accused of being members of the NPA. They were arrested by members of the 20th IB and are now detained in the Opong Detachment of the said IB.
“The victims are farmers and fisherfolks. Where in hell would they get guns and explosives? This is a clear harassment tactic and an obvious ploy by government forces to plant evidence and charge the victims with fabricated cases of illegal possession of firearms,” said Antonio Flores, secretary general of KMP, in a statement.
Not only activists and human rights defenders are under fire, even leaders of Constitutional institutions have been under attack due to Duterte’s “crackdown.”
On Nov. 22, the House of Representatives Committee on Justice held a hearing to determine probable cause on the impeachment complaint of Duterte supporter, lawyer Larry Gadon against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. Dominated by Duterte allies, the committee voted to exclude non-members from participating in the proceeding. The committee also refused to allow Sereno’s counsel from cross-examining the complainant, citing the House Committee follows rules different from a trial court.
Resistance vs. Duterte’s fake ‘revolutionary’ government
Several times, Duterte has vacillated about proclaiming a “revolutionary” government. He said he would not declare martial law, which needs Congress’s approval, but he will, instead, declare a “revolutionary” government, one that would set aside the Philippine Constitution.
Youth solon, Representative Sarah Elago of Kabataan Partylist, warned against Duterte’s “revolutionary” government and the effects of the termination of the peace talks.
“By cracking down on the mass movement, Duterte is fast-tracking an era of tyranny in par with, or even worse than, that of Marcos’ nationwide martial law. His ‘revolutionary government’ is a crackdown on any and all criticism of his tyrannical reign. Duterte’s listing of the CPP-NPA and the mass movement is in cahoots with the US’ interests for political hegemony by quashing its perceived enemies,” Elago said.
“By stopping the peace talks, it shows that Duterte has totally no regard for the socio-economic aspirations of the people, and prioritizes foreign oligarchs and big businesses. Part of the thrust of his ‘revgov’ and shift to federalism is to promote all-out liberalization and breaking down trade barriers with foreign investors to further suck the lifeblood out of the country’s resources,” she added.
Danilo Ramos, KMP Chairperson, also warned against Duterte’s open fascist rule.
“We won’t allow this situation to continue. Duterte’s threats of an open fascist rule will be met with strong peoples’ resistance and all-round struggle. Despite the threats, we will continue to organize and farmers and rural people nationwide. We will continue with our fight for genuine land reform,” KMP Chairperson Danilo Ramos said in a statement,” he said.
Various groups including Kabataan Partylist and KMP invite everyone to resist Duterte’s crackdown and the declaration of his personal version of a “revolutionary” government and to join the nationwide protest against fascism on November 30.