Duterte’s “very good” ratings on human rights protection questioned

Two years ago today, on September 1, 2015, the Magahat paramilitary group under the 36th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA),massacred Lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo, andEmerito Samarca, the executive director of Lumad school Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. The incident triggered theforcible evacuation of communities in Lianga. They were only able to return to their community a year later, on September 2016, only to evacuate again this July 2017 because of ongoing militarization and threats of aerial bombings.

“It has been two years and we are nowhere closer to prosecuting these murderers. It has been two years and Lumad communities continue to be endangered by military operations and targeted by counterinsurgency programs. Paramilitaries, protected by soldiers and Duterte, still roam around communities, killing and harassing indigenous peoples and peasants. This tells us that from Aquino to Duterte, change has not arrived for the poor and the oppressed,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the 2nd year commemoration of what came to be known as the Lianga massacre.

Palabay also commented on the recent SWS survey wherein results show a “very good” rating in in human rights protection for the Duterte administration, saying that “it is the improvement of the majority’s quality of life that remains as the real indicator of any administration’s performance.” She added that “the culture of impunity continues as people’s civil and political, and social and cultural rights are brazenly violated while perpetrators remain scot-free.”

“Surveys are surveys, but the reality on the ground cannot be simply erased by satisfaction ratings. Urban poor communities are being subjected to killings without any significant employment opportunities, demolitions continue to abound in favor of private firms, our farmers still do not own the land they till, our workers are still trapped in the cycle of contractualization, Lumad and Moro communities are still militarized and have become more and more at risk because of continuing fascist State policies. Change may have been real for the rich but the same injustice is meted out to the rest of us,” said Palabay.

Karapatan’s secretary general added that “if adherence to people’s rights is the basis for these ratings, if the number of Filipinos killed and the number of communities bombed and displaced are taken into account, then Duterte’s performance is a staggering failure. Not only has he and his State security forces perpetrated and aggravated rights abuses, he has also tacitly allowed impunity, cradling his police and soldiers to protect them from prosecution under our own laws.”

More than 12,000 individuals have been reportedly killed in the course of the Duterte administration’s war on drugs. As of July 2017, Karapatan has documented 78 victims of extrajudicial killings and 848 victims of illegal arrest, in line with Duterte’s counter-insurgency program. In more than a year of this administration, 418,782 have already been displaced from their communities while 357, 659 were subjected to indiscriminate firing and aerial bombardment. As the Duterte regime continued with its counter-insurgency program, attacks akin to the Lianga massacre have continued, with 33 Lumad schools already forced closed down in the SOCKSARGENDS region and other areas in Mindanao.

“For the many violations committed by Duterte’s predecessors, years of injustice have already been counted as cases are left unresolved and perpetrators are delegated to higher posts or protected by the State. The victims under the Duterte regime are now starting to count the years, for what can we really expect from a government who belittles human rights and continues the same, recycled counterinsurgency program and quick-fix solutions to the problems plaguing or society? Surveys are inconsequential, especially if the civil, political, economic, and social rights of the poor majority of Filipinos are continuously being violated on the ground,” concluded Palabay.

 

 

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