The bloody trail of killings of activists continues under President Duterte.
By KAREN ANN MACALALAD
MANILA — Despite the warm, popular support from the masses at the start of his term, President Rodrigo Duterte has chosen the path where the poor are killed and further pushed to the margins. Aside from those killed in anti-drug operations, which the Philippine National Police puts at under 4,000, cases of human rights violations continue to surge by the day, with every place made vulnerable to attacks and political violence.
By the first month of Duterte’s second year in office, reported cases of politically-motivated extrajudicial killings are up by 10 from the 68 recorded as of June 30. Seventy-six out of a total of 78 victims are from the peasant sector, 22 of whom come from the national minorities, data from human rights group Karapatan showed.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) strongly condemned the killings and attributed these attacks to the worsening state of land problem in the country. Instead of pursuing his promise to support genuine land reform, Duterte allowed the killings, militarization of communities and implementation of martial law in Min-danao under his first year in office, KMP Chairman Danilo Ramos said.
On July 25, the day Duterte delivered his second State of the Nation Address, fisherfolk leader Alberto Tecson was killed by six suspected state forces at 10 p.m., in his house in Bulado village, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental. Forty-five-year old Tecson was the chair of the Guihulngan chapter of fisherfolk group Pamalakaya, who led the campaign against the strict fishing rules and exorbitant fees imposed on small fisherfolk under the Amended Fisheries Code or Republic Act 10654.
His wife said members of the 79th Infantry Battalion (IB) accused Tecson of transporting armed groups using his pump boat a day before the shooting incident happened. On July 24, the military returned to their commu-nity while residents were at a rally.
A similar case also happened in Maragusan, Compostela Valley where peasant activist Boy Cañete was shot dead by soldiers allegedly under the 71st and 46th infantry battalion, at around 6 p.m. of July 21. Cañete was an active advocate of the peasant’s struggle for genuine land reform, according to Karapatan-Southern Min-danao Region (Karapatan-SMR).
“We strongly condemn this latest incident of political killing in the region perpetrated by government troops under Duterte’s desperate extension of martial law. These troops are using the imposition of martial law as a license to execute fascist acts on civilian populace, notably on individuals directly participating in the demo-cratic assertion of the people’s legitimate demands,” Jay Apiag of Karapatan-SMR said in a statement.
Tecson and Cañete are only two of the 50 organized victims killed as of July 2017. Based on Karapatan re-ports, more than half of the extrajudicial killings are also from the Mindanao region.
Still in Mindanao, on July 6, in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon, members of the paramilitary group Alamara shot dead Ande Latuan, a member of the Lumad group Pigyayungaan. Latuan was aboard his motorcycle along with Lumad woman Alang Kaligunan when they were blocked by five Alamara men at the Cabanglasan town proper. One of the Alamara, Mako Santos fired two shots at Latuan, who instantly died. The paramilitary men threatened to also kill Kaligunan if she tells anyone. The group Pigyayungaan has strongly advocated the protection of Lumad ancestral lands and government use of paramilitary men as investment defense forces.
“The cases happen nationwide, notably in provinces and areas where there are land problems, agribusiness firms and ongoing struggle of farmers for land and justice,” Ramos said. Over the past year, farmers continue to experience poverty and extreme hunger due to the existence of the hacienda system under the Duterte ad-ministration, he said.
Some of the disputed haciendas in Luzon, for example, include the 6,453-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, the 8,650-hectare Hacienda Looc in Batangas and 8,000-hectare Hacienda Dolores in Pampanga. In this region, Karapatan documented 20 victims of extrajudicial killings and one enforced disappearance.
Continuing the bloody legacy
Comparing the number of violations and abuses under the first year of Duterte and then President Benigno Aquino III, there is no improvement on the human rights situation in the country. Cases of illegal arrests and militarization of communities which led to the displacement and forcible evacuation of residents are notably high under Duterte.
The imposition and extension of martial law in Mindanao, along with the military’s all-out war, drug war and implementation of the counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan gave blanket authority to state forces to commit human rights violations with impunity, according to Karapatan.
Latest victims of illegal arrests include 33-year old Aeta farmer Antonio Narvaez of Bicol region, and five members of the Compostela Farmers Association (CFA): Alicia Tindasan, 62; Alexir Mata, 31; Jhona Rose Madrid, 39; Rolando Segovia, 47; and Estanislao Talledo, 50. Narvaez was arrested on July 19 by soldiers of the 83rd IB and 9th Infantry Division as he fetched water for his elderly uncle in Turague village, Sangay, Camarines Sur. The five CFA members arrested by 66th IB soldiers on July 2, and charged with criminal trumped-up cases.
Meanwhile, 28 schools have stopped their operations in Mindanao since the declaration of Martial Law in the region, Save Our Schools Network-SMR reported. A total of 924 Lumad students have to stop studying, 864 were forced to evacuate from their communities due to military operations, while one is reported missing after an encounter with soldiers.
Struggle for real change
Progressive groups have called for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao, and resumption of peace talks be-tween the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. They also call for the release of the 416 political prisoners detained, 57 of whom were arrested under Duterte.
“We remind Duterte that counterinsurgency programs have not worked, nor did the bombings and all other militarist approaches. The key is in solving the socioeconomic and political ills of our country,” Karapatan Secretary-general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
Peaceful resolution of the armed conflict may now be an abandoned option to Duterte, as he announced after his SONA last month that his administration will no longer pursue talks between government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
The peace negotiations were set to tackle the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), a definite progress from what was reached under previous administrations, Ramos said. “The major points in CASER, which involve free distribution of land and rural development, have long been campaigned for by the peasant movement in the country.”
The KMP also called for the confirmation of Rafael Mariano as the Department of Agrarian Reform secretary and passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill. “It is the first time we have a DAR secretary that came from the peasant sector and movement. In our years of experience, the appointed officers under the DAR were mostly anti-farmers and brokers,” Ramos claimed.