By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA – On December 10, in celebration of International Human Rights Day, tens of thousands took to the streets all over the country to express the people’s outrage over the rash of killings of civilians and activists by suspected state forces. The rallies were a show of force, of disdain, of resistance.
In Manila, some 8,000 protesters marched from Bonifacio Shrine to Mendiola, with torches held up high and chants shaking the capital.
There were simultaneous mobilizations in the provinces of Masbate, Albay, Cebu, Camarines Norte, and in the cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Malaybalay, Butuan, Tandag, General Santos, Koronadal, and other major centers.
“We are once again faced by a very difficult and perilous situation, as we are confronted by State terrorism, which knows no limit,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
“Our response is to stand our ground and staunchly make our voices louder and our actions stronger against tyranny and impending full-fledged dictatorship,” she added.
Hunger and poverty
“What [Duterte] fulfilled are the wishes of militarists and foreign capitalists. Violence and repression of critics is in full swing as the administration hastens the implementation of new taxes, does nothing to stop prices of basic goods and commodities from soaring, and continues privatization, deregulation, and other anti-people programs and policies. As Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Kapayapaan swiftly kill, the poor slowly die from hunger,” ACT Teachers Partylist Representative France Castro said.
A report from Ibon Foundation highlighted the worsening condition of economic rights in the Philippines under the Duterte administration.
“Recent rapid economic growth has not resulted in the attainment of the rights to work, to just wages, to land, to adequate standard of living, and to health, housing and education – in many instances the situation has become even worse. Promises to end contractualization and of free land distribution, education and housing are still unmet. The abrupt termination of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) betrays the government’s lack of interest in, among others, the basic social and economic reforms that the country needs,” the report provided.
Despite many of his campaign promises to alleviate the lives of the poor, the policies Duterte forwarded during since last year only reflected his “elitist priorities.” Ibon said. In the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) for years 2017-2022, priority legislations lean toward liberalism and greater burden to the poor.
This year, Duterte declared that he would push through with the PUV modernization plan, which has been denounced by jeepney drivers and commuters alike. The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion 2017 (TRAIN), which revised the taxation system for the worse — decreasing the income tax to be paid while increasing taxes to be paid for other consumer items. Duterte has also recently announced that the rehabilitation for Marawi City will be conducted without the need for any bidding, alleging that it is an “emergency situation.”
Duterte’s Build, Build, Build program is also set to displace tens and thousands of indigenous peoples. Big infrastructure projects are also tied with aid from foreign investors.
Meanwhile, Ibon Foundation reports that around 22 million Filipinos still live in extreme poverty today — earning PhP 60 per person or much less per day.
“The combined wealth of the 15 wealthiest individuals amounting to Php2.6 trillion is equivalent to the combined income of the 77 million poorest Filipinos,” the report cites to explain the unequal distribution of wealth.
Killings, threats, harassments
“Duterte is not only lying about drugs, so-called federalism and the elitist RevGov. He and his court jesters are misrepresenting the Filipinos’ desire for authentic change with his drive towards one-man rule. He and his minions demonize and harass those who defy and expose the lies and who present the truth,” stage and television artist Joel Saracho, one of the spokespersons of the Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity (LODI) alliance of artists, journalists, and writers, explained.
In the latest statistics provided by Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan), the Duterte administration can be held accountable for 113 politically-related killings, more than 13,000 drug-related killings, 256 illegal arrests, 426,170 victims of forced evacuation, 364,617 victims of indiscriminate firing and bombing, 39,623 victims of use of public places for military purposes, and 22 victims of politically-motivated frustrated extrajudicial killings.
After Duterte unilaterally terminated the peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), he declared the groups as a terrorist organizations.
Human rights violations continue to pile up as of this writing.
On December 9, prior to the celebration of the International Human Rights Day, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) reported that a member of the cultural group, Sulong Kultura (SUKUL), Bernardo Clarion, was found dead in the house of a friend he visited at Barangay Callawa in Davao City. He and his brother, Benjie, were on their way to visit a friend. The unnamed friend’s house was raided on December 8. Benjie, meanwhile, remains missing.
Also in Davao City, Karapatan-SMR reported that “Wanted” posters of eight activists whose trumped up cases have already been dismissed in 2016 were circulated. Hanimay Suazo, the spokesperson of Karapatan-SMR, is included in the list. The others included are: Kharlo Manano, Secretary General of Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns (SALINLAHI); Sheena Duazo, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-SMR spokesperson in SMR; Mary Ann Sapar, Gabriela-SMR Secretary General; Jurie Jaimie, spokesperson of Exodue Justice for Peace; Rius Valle, Save Our Schools Network spokesperson; Kerlan Fanagel, Secretary General of PASAKA, an organization of inidegnous peoples; and Sr. Stella Matutina, a Benedictine nun assigned to Mindanao, who actively campaigns against mining.
With an impending second extension of martial law in Mindanao, Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded, and Oplan Kapayapaan, the centralization of power in the presidency and a stronger military is expected to result in more human rights violations.
“Amidst the rampant and unabated killings, the people should not be on the side line and just wait for news of another victim of extra judicial killing and other rights abuses. The Duterte gov’t has no qualm of victimizing anyone. The latest victim of EJK was a farmer-supporter priest Fr. Tito Paez, human rights worker, Elisa Badayos of Karapatan-Negros, Anakpawis coordinator, Apolonio Maranan. Also the massacre of eight lumad asserting their land rights in Brgy. Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato by the 33rd Infantry Battalion, PA and the continuing food blockade of lumad bakwits in Lianga and San Agustin, Surigao del Sur”, Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao said.
“We condemn, in the highest and strongest terms, how the Duterte administration is perpetrating the culture of impunity — by abolishing the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) responsible for investigating Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth, by establishing close ties and giving favors to previous tyrants like Marcos and Arroyo,” Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago said.
Recently, Duterte also remarked how he regarded Arroyo as his “boss”. Several similarities with Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya are found in Duterte’s counterinsurgency strategies under Oplan Kapayapaan. One of the most notable similarities is the revival of an agency responsible for filing trumped up charges against activists, albeit in a different name.
On Dec. 11, the Resolution of Both Houses No. 18, which increases the salary of military and uniformed personnel, passed the third reading in the House of Representatives. Following the announcement of Duterte’s recommendation for a second extension of Martial Law and given the record of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in carrying out the brutal anti-people policies of the administration, this gained the ire of progressive legislators.
“Duterte intends to reward the military and the police for successfully carrying out policies that have led only to the death of tens of thousands of Filipinos. With Oplan Kapayapaan and Oplan Double Barrel Reloaded, the increase in salary is the last push for the Duterte administration to boost the morale of its troops to continue the killings. Just as Pavlov’s dog was conditioned with the sound of a bell, Duterte is conditioning the military and uniformed personnel that the more people they kill, the more they will be rewarded,” Elago criticized.
How the Duterte administration has formed close ties with Arroyo and the Marcoses is evident of how it intends to perpetuate the culture of impunity it once wanted to eliminate as a campaign promise.
Leaders of progressive groups and sectors vowed to continue the fight of the Filipino masses to attain genuine social change and development.
“Sa bahagi po ng mga kabataan, ipagpapatuloy po natin ang laban alang-alang sa mga magsasaka na minamasaker at walang lupa, alang-alang sa mga manggagawa na nagpapagal buong panahon pero hindi umaasenso ang buhay, hindi matatapos ang ating paglaban. Sa alaala ni Jo Lapira, Kamil Manangan, Guiller Cadano — mga bayani ng sambayanan na naglingkod, nagsilbi sa mamamayang Pilipino — panata ng kabataan at ng sambayanang Pilipino: pababagsakin natin ang pasistang diktaduryang US-Duterte,” Anakbayan Secretary General Einstein Recedes said during the program at Bonifacio Shrine.
(The youth will continue the fight of the people without any qualms — for the farmers who are being massacred by this administration, for the workers who work tirelessly but who remain poor — the fight is not yet over. In memory of Jo Lapira, Kamil Manangan, Guiller Cadano — heroes who have served the Filipino people — this is the promise of the youth and the Filipino masses: we will overthrow the US-Duterte fascist dictatorship regime.)
“We will not allow Duterte to complete his establishment of a fascist dictatorship and kill us all with bullets and worsening hunger and poverty. We have toppled down dictators and fascist regimes before and we can do it again. Filipino workers vow to wage an all-out war against Duterte through a snowballing protest movement that would bring down his fentanyl-driven fascist dictatorship,” Elmer ‘Ka Bong’ Labog, Chairperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said in a statement.