Political killings, abduction, and forcible evacuation mark days after Duterte’s threats to crackdown on progressive groups

“Duterte’s verbal threats have had chilling implications on the ground. With a bloodthirsty and trigger-happy military and police to do his bidding, the Duterte regime has, without hesitation, used all ploys within its power to terrorize individuals and entire communities. The recipe for repression detailed by past fascist regimes has been compounded by more innovations, courtesy of Duterte, his imperialist masters, and their loyal Cabinet security cluster. From the drug war, the US-driven counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, and martial law in Mindanao, the formation of the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) and his termination of the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines have been added to the mix. This has resulted to the spate of killings and arrests in just a matter of days,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay. 

Palabay cited the killing of Vivencio Sahay, a peasant leader in Caraga, and the arrest of another peasant leader in Mindoro on November 23. Sahay was gunned down by unknown gunmen in Brgy. Calamba, Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte. He was the chairperson of the Unyon sa Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte (UMAN), a local peasant organization affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP). UMAN-KMP has been continuously red-tagged by the military as a ‘legal front’ of the New People’s Army (NPA). 

Also on November 23, 2017, peasant leader Jerry Santiago, a Mangyan from Oriental Mindoro, was illegally arrested by elements of the police in Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro. Trumped-up charges for the murder of a paramilitary member is set to be filed against Santiago, despite proof that he was attending a community meeting during the said date of the murder incident. Santiago is currently detained at BJMP-Roxas. 

Meanwhile, in Brgy. Osmena, Palapag, Northern Samar, 3 farmers were abducted by elements of the 20th IBPA on November 24, 2017. The victims were identified as Richard Avino, Teny Gerbon and Arnel Aquino. The whereabouts of the 3 are yet to be confirmed, but Katungod-Northern Samar has made rounds in several military detachment in the area. The farmers are believed to be in the custody of the 20th IBPA. Sargie Macallan, coordinator of Katungod-Northern Samar was also physically assaulted by the commanding officer of the CMO Battalion in their Opong detachment on November 26, 2017. Macallan was strangled by LTC George Domingo while the former was seeking dialogue in light of efforts to ascertain the location of the 3 farmers. 

On November 25, 2017, Apolonio Maranan, 24, a resident of DDF Village, Barangay Mandug, Buhangin District, Davao City, and a member of ANAKPAWIS partylist, was shot dead by suspected members of the 16th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army. According to Maranan’s wife, her husband was out to buy dinner when she heard a series of gunfire five minutes after he left the house. The victim died instantaneously. 

On the same day, another peasant leader from UMAN-KMP was targeted in Caraga. The residence of Imelda Gagap, 48, was indiscriminately fired at by 2 motorcycle-riding men in Brgy. Maraiging, Jabonga, Agusan del Norte. The victim and her family survived the attack. Gagap, along with her organization, has been vocal against rights violations committed by the 29th IBPA in her community.   

“Aside from the killings and arrests, intensifying military operations are also being carried out in parts of Mindanao, which have again resulted to the forcible evacuation of residents,” added Palabay, citing that Lumad communities in the Caraga region are being subjected to forcible evacuation due to ongoing militarization of their communties.

According to initial reports from Karapatan Caraga, 12 communities in Brgy. Diatagan, Lianga and Brgy. Buhisan, San Agustin, Surigao del Sur are evacuating due to intensified military operations. 706 students of 9 Lumad schools and 51 of their teachers are affected by the recent incident. 3 military vehicles transporting soldiers started arriving in the area on November 23, 2017. Two days later, on November 25, a drone was heard and seen flying over the aforementioned communities. 

“These recent reports point to a mounting and intensifying systematic campaign to silence individuals and communities critical against the government’s anti-people policies. The Duterte regime, like his predecessors, is making use of a blanket rhetoric to persecute anyone tagged as ‘enemies of the State’ - in essence, people who have raised legitimate concerns against the government and have provided viable alternatives to the people. With Duterte’s recent decision to do away with the peace talks, he has desperately clung to his militarist approach to repress the resistance of the Filipino people. Consequently, Duterte has only isolated himself further, thereby justifying the defiance of the public against his rising dictatorship,” concluded Palabay.

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580