Duterte’s 1st year: A grim year for human and people’s rights

“It is unfortunate how the promises that became the basis for optimism at the start of Duterte’s term have now been replaced by excuses and lies by the police and military to justify blatant violations of people's rights. The series of policies that Duterte is implementing has substantiated claims that he is veering towards a rightist direction - a path ladened with militarist and repressive policies. If this continues, what kind of change can we expect?" said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the first year of the presidency of Rodrigo Roa Duterte. 

"Duterte’s imposition of martial law, coupled with the military's all-out war, the implementation of the US-directed and anti-people counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, and the anti-poor war on drugs, gave full blanket authority to State forces to brazenly commit rights abuses with obscene impunity. Up until the last remaining days of June 2017, violations have continued to pile up," said Palabay.

Palabay cited the abduction of seven peasant leaders of the Alliance of Farmers Association (ALFAS) by elements of the 3rd IBPA in Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya on June 25, 2017. The leaders were subsequently brought to the 3rd Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA) camp in Brgy. Bagumbayan, Dupax del Sur. The following day, June 26, Marcito Quizano, a peasant leader of SAMANA (Sangguir Dagiti Mannalon Nga Agkaykaysa), a peasant farmer organization in Nueva Vizcaya, reported the harassment done to him by elements of the 3rd IBPA. Said soldiers surrounded his house to intimidate him and discourage him from his work.

On the evening of June 26, 2017, farmers Gimmy Adlin, Romar Ruales, Kagawad Junrex Mission and Mendoy Tonlay were searching for rice field frogs in a nearby river in Brgy. LS Sarmiento, Laak, Compostela Valley when they heard a series of gunfire which lasted for hours. This prompted them to rush home. The next day, on June 27, they were illegally arrested by composite elements of the 60th IBPA and paramilitaries. The four were brought to the Laak municipal police station where they were charged with trumped-up cases. Aldin, Ruales, Mission, and Tonlay are active members of a local peasant organization who filed a petition against proposed plans to install a military detachment in their community.

Most recently, on June 28, 2017, around 7pm, progressive leaders from KARAPATAN and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) were held by elements of Task Force Davao in Lasang, Bunawan District, Davao City. Lito Lao, Pedro Arnado and Jerry Alborme of KMP-SMR, and Hanimay Suazo, secretary-general of Karapatan-SMR, were accosted while on their way home from a meeting with farmers of Madaum Agarian Reform Beneficiaries (MARBAI). The four were detained for around 5 hours without a warrant, on the basis that they were ‘suspicious-looking’. They were eventually released minutes before midnight.

"Since the declaration of martial law on May 23, 2017, at least fourteen peasant activists in Mindanao have been illegally arrested and are still detained. At least 260 Moro youth were brought to police stations for "questioning" in one day. Clearly, Proclamation 216 is being used for counter-insurgency purposes, affecting civilians, including activists, who the military arbitrarily tags as "enemies of the State”. The use of martial law to further counterinsurgency operations is becoming apparent, evidenced by the piling up of such violations," Palabay added.

The Karapatan leader also mentioned the most recent case of forced evacuation in Eastern Visayas where 47 residents from Brgy. Mahayag, Matuguinao, Samar had to flee because of militarization. “Military atrocities continue outside of Mindanao. The only difference is that rights abuses are further legitimized in Mindanao with the declaration of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. Nonetheless, repressive policies evidenced by the continued implementation of Oplan Kapayapaan manifest in rights abuses all over the country," she added.

 

On May 23, 2017, 28 elements from the 43rd IBPA, led by 2nd Lt. Jermaine Gentiles, arrived in Brgy. Mahayag, Matuguinao, Samar. On May 25, they called for a meeting to announce that they are in the community to protect the heavy equipment to be used for road construction, as well as to recruit members to the Civtizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU). The meeting ended with threats, as residents were directly red-tagged and warned that their houses will be fired at. The next day, 47 residents decided to leave their homes. They returned on May 31 only to find their houses ransacked and their belongings stolen.

"We reiterate our call for the immediate lifting of martial law in Mindanao. We call on Duterte to rescind repressive policies such as Oplan Kapayapaan and the war on drugs which have largely contributed to the deteriorating rights situation in the country, both in rural areas and in urban centers. We continue to challenge this administration to continue the peace talks and stand by his earlier promises to release all political prisoners and abide by agreements on human rights and international humanitarian law. 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," ended Palabay.

 

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