Progressives hold Duterte accountable for killings, arrests in Southern Tagalog

Protesters hold a placard bearing the names of those killed in March 7 simultaneous raids in Southern Tagalog. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan / Bulatlat)


MANILA – Progressive groups blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for the latest spate of killings and arrests in different parts of Southern Tagalog today, March 7.

Human rights alliance Karapatan confirmed that at least five were dead and three were arrested in simultaneous raids by combined police and military forces in Rizal, Laguna, Cavite and Batangas at around 4 a.m. today.

In a protest in front of the Commission of Human Rights, Defend-Southern Tagalog Spokesperson Charm Maranan said the incidents, dubbed as Bloody Sunday, took place a day after Duterte ordered his troops again to “finish off and kill all communist rebels.”

Those slain, however, are not New People’s Army (NPA) combatants but leaders and members of people’s organizations, according to former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao. They are Manny Asuncion of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Cavite, urban poor leaders Melvin Dasigao and Mark Lee Coros Bacasno and peasant couple  Ariel Evangelista and Chai Lemita-Evangelista.

Maranan also pointed the finger at Southern Luzon Command Chief Antonio Parlade Jr. and the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

As of this writing, Defend-ST monitored two incidents of raid in Batangas, three in Laguna, two in Rizal and one in Cavite.

The crackdown in Calabarzon is likened to Operation Sauron implemented by Police Chief Debold Sinas in Negros island. Karapatan noted that a pattern in these operations — “copy-paste” search warrants are used to swoop on civilian communities; combined police and military forces arrest activists and kill those who allegedly resisted arrest.

Progressives call for justice for their slain colleagues during a protest March 7. 2021 in front of the Commission on Human Rights. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan/Bulatlat)

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay called on the CHR to investigate the Bloody Sunday crackdown.

“Our calls for justice ring louder more than ever as we demand the release of all those arrested in Southern Tagalog and all political prisoners, and to hold accountable the perpetrators of the killings in the region today,” Palabay said.

‘Defective warrants’

Based on initial data gathered by Karapatan-Southern Tagalog, only two judges – Manila Vice Executive Judge Jose Lorenzo Dela Rosa and Sta. Cruz Regional Trial Court Branch 91 Judge Divina Gracia Ongkeko-Bustos – issued the search warrants.

Ongkeko-Bustos is the same judge who issued the search warrants against union activists Arnedo Laguinias and Ramir Corcolon who were arrested in separate incidents, March 4.

“The warrants have a template. Only the names and addresses were changed,” Maranan told Bulatlat in an interview.

In his speech at the CHR, Raymond Palatino of BAYAN-National Capital Region said in Filipino, “To the judges who issued the search warrants, you violated due process. What is your agreement with the PNP [Philippine National Police]?”

Palatino called on the Supreme Court to put a stop to the so-called factories of defective search warrants used against political dissenters.

Known for notoriety in issuing “copy-paste “warrants is Quezon City Regional Trial Presiding Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert. Her warrants led to the arrests of seven human rights defenders on Dec. 10, 2020. She was also the one who issued warrants against 57 activists in Negros island and five activists in Metro Manila in 2019.

Villavert also issued warrants for the arrest of National Democratic Front peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Rey Casambre, Estrelita Suaybaguio, Alexander and Winona Birondo, and Villamor couple.

Palatino also urged the high court to issue a temporary restraining order against the Anti-Terror Law. The Anti-Terror Law, Palatino said, would be used to further attack Duterte’s critics. (

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