Duterte’s ‘order of battle,’ a portent of an imminent dictatorship?

“This poison list disguising as petition filed by the DOJ is actually a kill list and an arrest list. Anyone can be a target of extrajudicial killing or illegal arrest using this DOJ petition as a pretext. An alias in the list can be alleged to anyone and that is what makes the petition and list even more precarious.”


MANILA — The Duterte administration has released its variant of an ‘order of battle’.

On February 21, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a petition before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations. Out of 55 pages, 24 pages were filled with names and aliases of alleged members.

Upon further investigation, various organizations have reported that several names listed in the DOJ petition are organizers and leaders of progressive groups, some even part of international organizations that have been critical of the current administration’s policies.

Under the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA), terrorism is defined as the use of ‘acts of terror to sow fear and panic to force the government to give in to an unlawful demand’. This was questioned in the Supreme Court, and though declared constitutional, still poses a threat for having a definition too broad and vague.

With the Duterte administration’s apparent ‘crackdown’ on activists and critics, this ‘poison list’ is a telling sign of a looming dictatorship.

READ: Human Security Act: ‘Draconian, Fascist’

The ‘poison’ list

As of March 15, Bulatlat has recorded at least four fisherfolk, eight farmers, five human rights defenders, and more than 10 indigenous peoples listed in the petition.

Incidentally, victims of the Duterte administration’s intensified militarization in provinces are also peasants and indigenous people.

In the hinterlands, Lumads are forced to evacuate from their schools and communities because of constant harassment and ‘psywar’ perpetrated by the military. Alternative schools that provide for free and mass-oriented education are red-tagged or forcibly closed by the military.

Among those in the DOJ list are Beverly Longid, a Bontok-Kankanaey activist from Cordillera and International Solidarity Officer of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KATRIBU); Windel Bolinget of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA); and Datu Isidro Indao, a Matigsalog-Manobo village chief and council member of the PASAKA Lumad Confederation in Southern Mindanao.

Farmers have to bear the same situation. While experiencing extreme poverty due to landlessness and state neglect, the peasant sector is also largely affected by Duterte’s all-out war. Over a hundred farmers have already been murdered since Duterte was proclaimed as president — many others also murdered, tortured, and harassed in previous administrations. Decades later, someone has yet to be held liable.

“How can it be act of terrorism if the people in the list are legally fighting for the protection of marine environment and welfare of the fisherfolk?” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson and former Anakpawis Party-list solon said in a statement. In the list, about three are members of a legitimate fisherfolk organization in Batangas, Haligi ng Batanguenong Anakdagat (HABAGAT).

“We are highly alarmed by this DOJ proscription list because even those legitimate members of legal people’s organizations are included and are subjected to illegal arrest, harassment, and other human rights abuses,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA Chairperson and former Anakpawis Party-list solon said in a statement.

Among those named in the list are Erlindo Baes, spokesperson of the Haligi ng Batangueñong Anakadagat (HABAGAT), a regional organization of PAMALAKAYA, and Jun Benemerito, an organizer of KASAMA-Bukidnon. One of the named farmers, Arturo Colao, an active organizer of the Misamis Oriental Farmers Association (MOFA), was killed in Misamis Oriental.

READ: Paskuhang Bakwit | Lumad, Manila-based students call to end martial law in Mindanao, food blockade

A ‘dubious’ list

The list is bloated with Jane and John Does, aliases, persons already arrested and victims of enforced disappearances or desaparecidos. Prominent human rights defenders are also in the list such as Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, appointed in 2014 as UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, and Elisa Tita Lubi, a staunch human rights defender and member of the Executive Committee of human rights group Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan).

“This poison list disguising as petition filed by the DOJ is actually a kill list and an arrest list. Anyone can be a target of extrajudicial killing or illegal arrest using this DOJ petition as a pretext. An alias in the list can be alleged to anyone and that is what makes the petition and list even more precarious,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Secretary General Antonio Flores said.

Karapatan also explained that even persons who are not part of any progressive organization could also be targeted. The case of Rolly Panesa comes to memory, the security guard who was abducted, tortured, and then illegally arrested after being ‘mistaken’ to be a high-ranking leader of the CPP.

READ: Arrested security guard, tortured by the military

“The practice of lumping together names is a long-standing maneuver of the AFP, PNP, CIDG and other government agencies, despite the absence of evidence against the named individuals,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

“The scriptwriters of these lists could care less about whether these persons are already dead or reported missing, just as long as they can cover a wide range of activists and rights defenders to implicate. From the very start, these lists have no integrity,” she added.

More than anything, the list is meant to create a chilling effect on critics of the current administration. Palabay explained that it is meant ‘to harass, target, and criminalize persons from progressive organizations.’

National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia warned that the list could be used by the government to effect warrantless arrests on the basis of an issuance of the Anti-Terrorism Council, as provided by the HSA.

READ: Colleagues decry terror tag on journalist

A history of impunity

During the Arroyo regime, Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) paved the way for the murder and enforced disappearance of many activists. Under Major General Jovito Palparan’s command, OBL is one of, if not the most deadly counterinsurgency campaigns of the government.

During the Aquino administration, the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) drafted Joint Order No. 14-2012, which listed about ‘235 wanted communists’ and offered a monetary reward to those who would successfully arrest them. This was created while current DILG Secretary Eduardo Año was chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Perpetrators of killings and illegal arrests continue to run scot-free. Despite seeing how the government has already made use of counterinsurgency programs and lists to perpetrate rights violations, the list in the DOJ petition, a rehash of the ‘orders of battle’ during the Arroyo and Aquino regimes, is only a manifestation of the continuing culture of impunity.

READ: Yearender 2017: ‘Reminiscent of Arroyo’ | Duterte’s counterinsurgency program

In fact, counterinsurgency programs, despite having different names, all have the same features. This is evident in the similarities of Oplan Kapayapaan and Oplan Bantay Laya — one of which is the revival of former President Arroyo’s Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), which was recommended to be disbanded by then UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston after a mission in the Philippines. President Duterte’s Inter-Agency Commission on Legal Action (IACLA) has similar functions most specially the filing of trumped-up charges against activists.

READ: Groups warn of renewed ‘witch-hunt’ on gov’t critics with revival of Arroyo-era agency

Rights groups opposed the HSA because it could be used to violate human rights. Certain provisions allow for the freezing of bank accounts, surveillance, and interception of communication not only for those who have already been found guilty of terrorism but also those who are merely suspected of being terrorists or aiding terrorists.

While the Duterte administration continues to launch these offensives, body counts of those murdered and records of human rights violations continue to pile up.

“What should be addressed instead is Duterte’s brand of state terrorism, which has victimized thousands. Indeed, shouldn’t Duterte be branded instead as the number 1 terrorist?” Palabay said.

Karapatan’s latest statistics reflect over 120 extrajudicial killings, most of which are from the peasant sector, hundreds of thousands forcibly evacuated and are victims of indiscriminate firing and bombing.

President Duterte has been criticized for threatening his critics and using the powers of the government to silence them. Is the DOJ list part of the Duterte administration’s perceived crackdown on critics? (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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