“Everybody should stand up against the tyrant.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Rage flooded the streets of Manila on this year’s International Human Rights Day.
More than 8,000 people from all walks of life protested what they called as terrorism of the Duterte administration. A few days before Dec. 10, ten activists were killed. After Duterte declared the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as terrorist organizations, military operations intensified in Surigao del Sur resulting in the forcible evacuation of more than 2,000 civilians.
A delegation from Mindanao joined the protest action at the Bonifacio Shrine, each protester holding a photograph of a victim of extrajudicial killing.
Another group consisted of families of victims of the so-called ‘war on drugs’ of the Duterte administration. They too held the photographs of their loved ones.
The religious held placards calling for justice for Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez who was gunned down by motorcycle-riding men in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija, Dec. 4.
Beyond the grief was a show of collective defiance.
Fr. Oliver Castor of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) lashed out at the Duterte administration’s policy of killings, citing the systematic attacks on progressives and the bloody “war on drugs.”
Addressing the president, the Catholic priest said, “Digong, hindi kami takot sa ‘yo.” (We are not afraid of you)
Listening among the crowd was Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo. “Dapat manindigan ang simbahan. Dapat kaming maging critical lalo na’t mahihirap ang nagiging biktima,” (The Church must take a stand. We have to be critical especially because the poor are the ones becoming victims) he told Bulatlat in an interview.
Pabillo who was vocal against the corruption and anomalies of the Arroyo administration maintained that Duterte is worse when it comes to human rights. He said that then President Gloria Arroyo made efforts to hide human rights abuses. “Ngayon, hayagang binabalewala ang human rights. Pati human rights defenders, tinitingnang kaaway ng estado.” (Today, there is an outright disregard for human rights. Even human rights defenders are considered as enemies of the state)
Not only the Church are becoming involved but also journalists and artists.
Photojournalist Vincent Go described Duterte’s so-called campaign against illegal drugs and crimes as “too brutal and inhumane.”
Go is among a group of photojournalists who have been covering and documenting the extrajudicial killings in Metro Manila. He noted a pattern in many cases he followed: the ‘nanlaban’ (suspect allegedly fought back) story being peddled by the police is an outright lie and there was no transparency in police operations.
Barely two weeks ago, Go and colleagues found the bodies of three young men aged 16 and 17 along Edsa, their necks slashed with knives. He showed the unedited photographs of the victims as he said, “Even if they were petty criminals, they don’t deserve to be killed in such a barbaric way.”
After having witnessed too many of these brutal deaths, Go said, “It’s difficult to maintain neutrality. Sobrang mali… Hindi ka pa man sentensyado, patay ka na.” (It is so wrong. They have not been sentenced and yet they are being killed right away.)
To him, “Duterte’s way of ruling by enforcing a climate of fear is lazy work and characteristic of a bully.” He noted that recently, a pastor was also killed. “Who’s next? Journalists?”
For theatre and indie film actor Brian Arda, the human rights violations happening now are similar to the brutalities he read during martial law. “Sabi ni Duterte, ‘Change is coming’ pero lalong lumala,” (things got worse.) Arda told Bulatlat.
Arda has joined LODI (Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity) Arts and Media Alliance. He said, “Ang sining ay dapat naghahayag ng totoo, naghihikayat sa mga tao na mag-isip at masusing pag-aralan ang lipunan upang makapagdesisyon sila nang tama.” (The arts should show the truth; it should encourage people to think and deeply study the situation in our society in order to decide what is right.)
Several artists performed at the protest action including Monique Wilson, Bayang Barrios, Chikoy Pura, Danny Fabella and cultural groups of people’s organizations. Theater actor Joel Saracho read an Amado V. Hernandez poem.
Visual artists belonging to UgatLahi created a mural unveiling Duterte’s “terrorism.”