Human rights abuses in Southern Tagalog, other regions on the rise amid lockdown – group

Infographic by Justin Umali

Karapatan ST is calling on the government to focus on “providing relief and serving the people through coming up with a solution to the crisis, instead of using the pandemic as an opportunity to intensify fascist attacks on the citizenry.”


SANTA ROSA, Laguna – As the Luzon-wide lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second month, more Filipinos become victims of human rights violations, according to human rights watchdog Karapatan Southern Tagalog.

Karapatan ST has documented multiple cases of harassment and intimidation against farmers in Oriental Mindoro, Laguna, and Quezon provinces since April 13.

In Gloria, Oriental Mindoro, Lordan Malucon was detained by elements of the police and military, April 17, on suspicions of being a member of the New People’s Army. The Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines declared separate unilateral ceasefires in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, although the government ceasefire had already expired last April 15.

In Santa Rosa, Laguna, police visited the house of Nedo Lagunias, accusing him of being a member of the NPA and exhorting him to surrender, April 18. Lagunias is an officer of Alyansa ng Manggagawa sa Engklabo (AMEN) and a former officer of Lakas Manggagawang Nagkakaisa sa Honda-OLALIA-KMU (LMNH).

According to Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (PAMANTIK-KMU), this threat was consistent with other threats faced by labor leaders and workers in the province, particularly Coca-Cola workers.

In Mulanay, Quezon, members of the 85th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army ransacked the house of couple Romeo and Helen Llagas, April 20 . The 85th IBPA has intensified its operations in the area during the lockdown – last April 13, they arrested Nomeriano Fuerte in General Luna, on accusations of being an NPA member.

Karapatan ST condemned the acts, stating that these “exposed the Duterte regime’s true intent during the pandemic – terrorizing the countryside for its self-centered interest instead of providing any real solution to the pandemic.”

Cases in other regions

Outside Southern Tagalog, police and military activity, and correspondingly, attacks on human rights, have increased nationwide in recent days.

Last April 19, Norzagaray, Bulacan police arrested six volunteers belonging to Tulong Anakpawis and Sagip Kanayunan conducting relief operations. Former Anakpawis Party-list Rep. Ariel Casilao, who responded to the arrested volunteers, was also arrested. Casilao faces a charge of usurpation of authority while the six volunteers are charged with attempted inciting to sedition.

That same day, Cebu artist Maria Victoria Beltran was arrested in her home in Cebu City on an alleged violation of Article 154 of the Revised Penal Code, stemming from a satirical post she made.

Karapatan Panay, meanwhile, reported that last April 18, operations by the 61st IBPA resulted in the death of one civilian in Miag-Ao, Iloilo and the arrest of 12 others in Sibalom, Antique, contrary to reports by the Armed Forces of the Philippines that they encountered at least 40 members of the NPA in a training camp. The 12 civilians are residents of Sibalom, Antique whose ages range from 14 to 21 years old.

Karapatan Panay also stated that the civilian killed was John Farochilin, local peasant leader and officer of Paghugpong sang mga Mangunguma sa Panay kag Guimaras (PAMANGGAS).

According to Kyle Salgdao, Karapatan ST spokesperson, Duterte “has no actual concern for the COVID-19 pandemic, even though this should be his government’s top priority right now. Instead, he resorts to fascist antics by increasing police and military presence, harassing innocent citizens and rights defenders, and feeding us bullets instead of grain.”

Salgado added that the government “should and must prioritize the needs of the Filipino citizens first in this time of crisis.” He added that “basic needs aren’t the only thing scarce during Duterte’s lockdown; respect for human rights runs low as well.”

Karapatan ST is calling on the government to focus on “providing relief and serving the people through coming up with a solution to the crisis, instead of using the pandemic as an opportunity to intensify fascist attacks on the citizenry.”

As of April 22, the Southern Tagalog region (Calabarzon and Mimaropa) has a total of 963 confirmed COVID-19 cases, or 14 percent of the total 6,599 cases in the country. Outside the National Capital Region, the province of Rizal has the highest number of cases at 317 and 24 deaths. (

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