Peasant killings and other rights violations intensify in rural areas - Karapatan

“Almost 10 months after the implementation of counterinsurgency programs Oplans Bayanihan and Kapayapaan under the Duterte regime, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its paramilitaries has intensified attacks in rural areas, targeting peasant organizations and indigenous communities. As of August 31, 2017, Karapatan has documented 88 victims of political killings under the Duterte regime, 81 of them are peasants,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

In Albuera City, Leyte,  farmer Jason Montalla, 33, a member of the Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-GB), was shot by two armed men on September 5, 2017, while on his way home. Prior to the shooting, Montalla was tagged by the 78th IBPA as an NPA supporter in Albuera City. Montalla sustained gunshot wounds in his right torso and was subsequently admitted to the hospital. On Sept. 21, two weeks later, Montalla died while under hospital care.

Also on September 5, at least 133 families evacuated in the Barangays of  Kakiduguen, Dine and Biyoy in Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya after operations by the 84th IBPA, 7th ID in the area. Most of the evacuees are from Ifugao and Ibaloi communities. Military operations are ongoing, with a series of red-tagging also reported by residents.

In a span of more than a month, from July 23 to August 30, 2017, seven (7) farmers were targeted and killed in Guinhulngan City, Negros. Most of the victims were members or leaders of local peasant organizations. Among those killed were Glenn Absin, a former student activist killed last July 23, 2017, Alberto Tecson, vice-chairperson of Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Pamalakaya,  gunned down on July 24, 2017, and Oscar Asildo Jr, Bayan Muna organizer, shot dead on August 30, 2017.

Other leaders of various local organizations in Guinhulngan, including peasant leaders Marilou Alangilan and Cenona Estrada, health worker Josephine Saguran, Piston leaders Florante Burdado and Harry Cantilla, and Lorna Tecson, wife of killed fisherfolk leader Alberto Tecson, also reported receiving death threats.

A national fact-finding report that investigated the killings concluded that these series of attacks has created an “atmosphere of terror,” as activists and civilians who have legitimate demands  are targeted for their work and advocacy.

“These blatant attacks remain indicative of a dangerous environment for activists and human rights defenders. What’s worse is that these violations are sanctioned by the State through its counterinsurgency program, providing passes to State security forces and its assets to target anyone branded as an ‘enemy of the State,’ including activists, human rights defenders, peace advocates, members and leaders of progressive organizations, and concerned citizens who have raised legitimate issues and criticisms to the government,” Palabay said.

“It is thus ironic for the PH government to claim that there are no extrajudicial killings in the country – whether in line with the drug war campaign or the government’s counterinsurgency program. It is equally preposterous for State representatives such as Alan Peter Cayetano and Ambassador  Evan Garcia to claim in the United Nations Human Rights Council that there is no culture of impunity in the country, when killings continue and intensify on the ground. The Duterte regime’s fake news mill is grinding at the international level, but no one’s buying the lies and deception,” Palabay reiterated.

Moreover, Karapatan’s secretary general cited that the thirteen (13) recommendations aimed at protecting and creating an enabling environment for human rights defenders have been rejected by the PH government, as well as the forty-four (44) recommendations related to extrajudicial killings.

“This is the real situation that the PH government deliberately fails to acknowledge. The Duterte regime is adamant in ignoring the killings on the ground, brought about by its own militarist and fascist policies and campaigns. Whether in urban centers or in rural areas, we amplify the call to stop the killings and immediately end the fascist attacks against the Filipino people. Tyranny has no place here,” Palabay concluded.