“Progressives and even those not in their group are alluded to in the terrorist-tagging because the president doesn’t want any dissenter to government policies.”
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Has President Duterte forgotten the numerous times he hobnobbed with the revolutionary fighters of the New People’s Army when he facilitated releases of prisoners of war? What he said about the revolutionaries having legitimate reasons for their struggle? Has he forgotten his promises of independent foreign policy, peace, housing, land reform, an end to contractualization, a policy for free education, better wages? These, among others, are the questions discussed at a gathering of members of organizations Duterte now tags as ‘legal fronts.’
“Mr. Duterte as the mayor said a lot in recognition of the legitimate struggle of the Left. He even contributed rice and funds as a gesture of confidence-building,” Bayan national chairperson Carol Araullo recalled. But after Duterte’s hosting of US President Donald Trump and, since months earlier, his declaration of martial law over Mindanao, he has been taking the path of his predecessors in Malacañang, especially former presidents who were deposed or who left the palace detested by the Filipino people. According to Araullo, “He’s turning around now is meant to justify his turning back on peace talks, continuing the unjust war, killing the opponents in the legal front,” among similar others that past presidents have also done before him.
In a press conference in Quezon City on Thursday, December 7, leaders of progressive organizations led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan vowed that they will remain undeterred and will continue doing what they have been doing since the establishment of Bayan in 1985, or since some of its founding members have been activists in the dark years of Martial Law in the 1970s.
“The real terrorist in the Philippines are the investment defense forces of the government troops and the police and President Duterte,” said Karapatan (Human Rights Alliance) secretary general Cristina Palabay.
Unlike President Duterte or the government military, Palabay has proofs to back her claims, she said.
‘US-Duterte, the AFP are the real terrorists’
After the 13,000-plus questionable killings of mostly the poor under Duterte’s drug war, and the recent spate of killings, bombings, questionable arrests, harassment and falsified charges against civilians in their communities, Duterte and the government troops are showing up on record as the actual terrorists, according to leaders of Gabriela, LFS, Karapatan and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.
Compare that, they said, to the record of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police which have been bombing civilian communities, killing unarmed school-heads, arresting or threatening transport leaders at the city’s hall of justice itself.
The progressive groups differentiate themselves from the CPP-NPA in the sense that the latter are armed combatants and underground. The members of legal democratic organizations are unarmed, covered by law and, as per International Humanitarian Laws, are civilians, non-combatants, and non-targets in wars.
“Duterte who is known worldwide as a blood-lusting human rights violators of the poor he demonized, now he will use it on the people fighting for legitimate demands. He wants to tar everybody with that (terror) label because he thinks he has done that in Marawi,” Bayan chair Carol Araullo said at the press conference.
“His (Duterte’s) terrorism is most evident in the events leading to December 10 Human Rights Day,” Palabay of Karapatan said. The human rights advocate said they have witnessed the killings of human rights defenders in Negros Oriental while doing a fact-finding mission, the killing of Fr. Marcelito Paez in Jaen, Nueva Ecija, Pastor Quiñones in Mindoro Oriental, and in the same period, Karapatan documented eight Lumad leaders “massacred by Philippine Army troops in Cotabato.”
“These people were tagged as NPAs and alleged to have been involved in terror activities. But their activities for a long time prove they are working for the welfare of the people,” Palabay said. The mentioned victims of extra-judicial killings were human rights defenders documenting rights violation in Negros, religious or peasants struggling for a genuine land reform program.
‘Duterte turning to fascist rule benefits only the ruling clique, elite’
“In his attempt to centralize power, remove the opposition, this proclamation of terrorism will be used against everybody including dissenters,” Bayan Muna’s Neri Colmenares warned at Thursday’s press conference.
“We won’t be demoralized or stopped by the government’s armed threats,” Joms Salvador, secretary general of Gabriela, said their members will continue their group’s decades of services to women. Gabriela has been at the forefront of bringing solutions and reforms to women’s issues, from gender-based discrimination to health and budgeting issues.
A youth leader tagged Duterte as “the real terrorists.” The progressive youth-student leaders are raising just demands for education but, he said, they are now being harassed by state troops to force them to quit. For example, he cited the case of the CEGP (College Editors Guild of the Philippines) who is under surveillance and being tailed up to their house.
“The police talked to the parents of a La Salle student leader to dissuade him from joining activities for fellow students’ rights. An LFS student-leader in UST received a text from an unknown number. “Kumusta ka takot ka na ba? Magkita tayo sa impyerno. Nakita mo na paglilibingan mo?” (How are you? Are you frightened now? Let’s meet in hell. Have you seen your grave?), the student leader said at the Bayan press conference.
“Duterte’s ‘terror’ is just coverup for his flipflop on campaign promises”
Toward pushing his ambitions and the government policies “The president is ratcheting the attacks and slander against the CPP-NPA to cover up Duterte’s now internationally condemned rights violations,” Araullo said. But by no stretch of imagination can these groups be labeled as terrorists, she said.
What is worrisome, she said, is the Duterte government’s efforts to bring his war on drugs and war on armed revolutionaries to the unarmed civilians. While the armed revolutionaries are combatants and can defend themselves, civilians cannot, even if they are critical and dissenters.
“We all have already experienced this,” Bayan Muna’s Neri Colmenares said of creeping Martial Law.
Under Marcos’ Martial Law, Marcos and state troops tagged and attacked not just the legal democratic and progressive organizations, but even his political rivals, even businessmen not exactly bowing to his command, Colmenares recalled.
The same thing with former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who unleashed and praised former General Jovito Palparan and Palparan-type military atrocities even against the civilians, Colmenares added.
“Progressives and even those not in their group are alluded to in the terrorist-tagging because the president doesn’t want any dissenter to government policies,” Colmenares said.
However, the people rose up and eventually brought down the US-Marcos regime. Former president GMA’s term, meanwhile, eventually ended with the people demanding change.
The progressive groups urged the public to join or support them not only in stopping Duterte’s creeping one-man rule but also in advancing human rights.
The progressive groups called on the people to express their outrage at the returning one-man rule that they have long junked along with the Marcos dictatorship. They invite the public to join the gathering of rights defenders on December 10. There are various gatherings around the country but in Metro Manila, it will be at the Bonifacio Shrine.