“The lockdown and the said operations are part of the Duterte administration’s anti-communist hysteria, and has no objective other than to ‘pacify the human rights movement in Davao, which has a proud history of advancing civil and political rights.”
By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA — Late in January, the Philippine National Police (PNP) declared that it has planned to conduct anti-terror drills in Davao City. A consequent lockdown of the whole city is scheduled on the second or third week of February.
The PNP said the drills will be conducted in order to test the readiness of state agents to respond to terror threats. No one will be allowed to enter the city during the lockdown.
On Feb. 8, Task Force Davao already had to close down an entrance to Davao City in Lasang village for three hours. They claimed to have found an improvised explosive device (IED) supposedly belonging to the New People’s Army (NPA).
The Southern Mindanao chapter of Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan-SMR), however, criticized the lockdown as an excuse to justify more human rights violations perpetrated by elements of the State.
In order to curb criminality in Davao City, where President Rodrigo Duterte first launched his drug war campaign and localized tokhang when he was mayor, the Davao City Police Office launched two operations: Oplan Fortification of Residences towards a Restful Environment that is Secured and Safe (Oplan IRON FORTRESS) and Oplan Integrated Revitalized Operation of Neighborhood-Watch of the Mega City (IRON City).
Oplan IRON City focuses on street crimes. As a result of which, 910 police auxiliaries have been deployed to Davao City, who shall receive honoraria from the city government itself. Meanwhile, Oplan IRON FORTRESS maximizes barangay captains, homeowners’ association presidents and officers, and security officers of malls, hotels, and resorts in crime prevention.
This is besides the fact that Davao City is already heavily guarded with thousands of elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deployed to the region. Three full-fledged Army battalions — the 3rd, 16th, and 89th Battalions — the Marines and Navy, Task Force Davao, the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs), and auxiliary forces of the Special Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (SCAA) are now being used in the Duterte administration’s anti-terror campaign.
According to Karapatan-SMR, the lockdown and the said operations are part of the Duterte administration’s anti-communist hysteria, and has no objective other than to “’pacify the human rights movement in Davao, which has a proud history of advancing civil and political rights.”
PNP Head of Directorate for Operations Pancratius Cascolan said the lockdown would last for only 15-30 minutes.
“The timeframe is dubious considering that the massive simulation exercises are said to be implemented by thousands of military forces, Marines, police, and members of Civil defense and Bureau of Fire Protection in downtown Davao and other key areas. The military had early announced it will conduct the lockdown simultaneous with counterinsurgency operations,” Karapatan-SMR said in a statement.
Sixty eight victims of politically-motivated extrajudicial killings have been recorded in the Southern Mindanao Region. Legitimate organizations and partylists have been vilified as supporters of the New People’s Army. Progressive leaders have been branded criminals as “Wanted” posters were scattered around the city for a trumped-up charge dismissed by the court years ago. Recently, military and police have been seen making rounds near the Haran Sanctuary, where lumads have taken refuge after being forced to evacuate from their ancestral lands because of intensified militarization.
Karapatan-SMR secretary general Jay Apiag was also falsely implicated in the killing of a police officer in Buhangin, Davao City.
“The so-called ‘development’ in Davao comes with a price – the murder of its human rights legacy and civil and political rights movement, and the repression of a people who have a brave and proud spirit in fighting for what is right,” the human rights organization said.