Activists slam Duterte on Human Rights Day

PROGRESSIVE organizations have had enough of human rights violations under the five month old Rodrigo Duterte government.

Thousands of torch-bearing activists stormed Mendiola on International Human Rights Day last December 10 to protest human rights violations under Duterte, including more than 6,000 extrajudicial killings, militarization of communities and the hero’s burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“We support President Duterte’s commitment to the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the revolutionary Moro groups as well as his pronouncements for an independent foreign policy, but we will never accept and turn a blind eye to every fascist act and tendency by the administration,” Karapatan secretary-general Christina Palabay said.

The protesters, led by Karapatan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and the Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacanang (CARMMA), marched from Liwasang Bonifacio to Mendiola bearing hundreds of torches they later used to burn an effigy of Marcos.

“During his campaign, Duterte promised change. But there has been little done for human rights under his regime,” Palabay said.

“Instead, he freed a president that launched the bloody Oplan Bantay Laya (Gloria Arroyo) and promoted Gen. Eduardo Año—the one who abducted Jonas Burgos—to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff. This is not the change we want,” Palabay added.

Not serious

The protesters also criticized Duterte for his refusal to release more political prisoners, despite his promise to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) during his campaign to do so.

Duterte said in various recent speeches that he will not release any more political prisoners unless the NDFP signs a bilateral ceasefire with his government.

“The political prisoners are already in jail. Must they be hostages now?” Boy Cadano, father of political detainee Guiller, said.

“This is blackmail, plain and simple. This is unacceptable,” Cadano added.

“How many more must die in prison before the government begins acting to release them? The political prisoners are innocent, after all,” Cadano said, citing the recent death of Bernabe Ocasla who died last month while in detention.

NDFP consultant Concha Araneta-Bocala for her part said that this was a sign that the Duterte administration is not serious in his negotiations with their group.

“The peace process is not some poker game where you can treat the political prisoners as bargaining chips,” she said.

“The president’s statements make it clear that he is not serious about addressing the roots of the armed conflict. All he wants is a ceasefire so he can carry on a charade of peace,” Araneta-Bocala said.

Mounting death

The activists condemned the increasing number of extrajudicial killings due to of Duterte’s so-called war on drugs.

“The number of victims of the war on drugs has ballooned. Over 6,000 have died in allegedly legal operations carried out by supposed vigilantes,” human rights group Rise Up’s Irma Balabad said.

“Meanwhile, most of the killers remain free, as the president has stated that he will defend the policemen,” Balabad added.

They added that the war on drugs was actively being used against activists.

“Oplan Tokhang is now being used in rural communities to harass progressives,” Balabad said.

“It is very sad that a regime that talks about change so much is slowly beginning to smell of fascism and oppression,” Balabad added.

Choose wisely

The progressives spoke against the burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, as well as Duterte’s continued affiliation with the Marcos clan.

“The dictator and his clan are addicted to power. We will not allow them to be rehabilitated and reclaim it,” CARMMA lead convenor Bonifacio Ilagan said.

“Duterte must end his alliance – or whatever he wants to call it – with the Marcoses if he wants change to be real. Otherwise, his promises are all just empty words,” Ilagan added.

“Marcos has been buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani but there is still no justice for victims of Martial Law. State fascism remains long after the dictator’s ouster,” Palabay said.

Ilagan said that they are not intimidated by either the Marcos’ return to power or Duterte’s multiple threats against human rights violations.

“This is not enough reason for us to stop our struggle. We have survived Martial Law and we will survive another attempt at it,” Ilagan said.

“We are ready to fight and revolt if things like Martial Law ever happen again. Don’t dare us,” Anakbayan chairperson Vencer Crisostomo for his part said. (Abril Layad B. Ayroso)