Worsening violations of human rights
Violations of human rights under the Duterte regime continue to worsen. All democratic forces must stand and defend civil and political rights and demand justice for the thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings as well as military abuses in the countryside and continuing political repression and persecution.
Despite his avowal of support for peace talks and for the CARHRIHL, he has allowed the AFP to continue its war of suppression with impunity. In the past six months, AFP combat units occupied and controlled barrios suspected to be base areas of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Several hundred thousand people have been subjected to various forms and degrees of military harassment. Peasant masses have been subjected to curfews, restrictions, interrogations, threats, intimidation and other abuses of civil and political rights. To them, there is practically no difference between the Duterte regime and the previous regimes in terms of military abuses.
Activists continue to be subjected to surveillance and harassment. Close to 20 have been arrested and charged with trumped-up criminal cases. He has also yet to correct the injustice done by the previous regimes against more than 400 political prisoners who continue to languish in jail over trumped-up criminal charges. On two successive days last October, protest demonstrations were violently dispersed by the military and police.
There are at least 16 cases of extra-judicial killings against activists, including peasants demanding land reform. In Compostela Valley, environmental anti-mining activist Joselito Pasaporte was killed last October 13. To downplay the killing of Pasaporte, he was described by the police as being a “drug personality”.
The tactic of linking cases of political repression to the war against drugs is increasingly being used by the AFP. In Kalinga, 73-year old retired NPA Red fighter Marcos Aggalao was arrested and accused of possession of illegal drugs. On October 4, four peasant activists in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan were arrested and accused of illegal drugs possession. To justify the conduct of hostile operations despite the ceasefire order, “peace and development” operations under Oplan Bayanihan are being described as part of the “war against drugs.”
Grave disregard of human rights in Duterte’s war against drugs
There is a grave disregard of human rights under the Duterte regime’s so-called war against drugs. In just less than six months, close to 5,000 people have been killed. Around half have been killed by police operatives in supposed arrest operations typically in urban slums.
These operations have been so contrived that reporters have practically come up with a report template where victims are described as having “resisted arrest” and in possession of a .38 caliber handgun and several packets of shabu. The general public has grown skeptical of such police reports, especially after the same template was used to explain away the celebrated case of Mayor Rolando Espinosa who was killed by police operatives while in a police jail in Leyte.
There are also the daily killings of supposed small-time drug users and peddlers and other petty criminals. It is, as if, there is a national network of death squads which are trying to outnumber each other’s killings and outdo each other in the tabloid news media with increasingly sick methods of murder and demented “cardboard messages”. Victims are invariably described as criminals in a subtle way of dismissing or even justifying the crime.
This orgy of drug killings has been set forth by Duterte’s display of total disdain for human rights. He has brazenly encouraged the police to carry-out gangland-style killings of suspected criminals with impunity. He has assured police officers of backing and has gone the extent of reinstating key officers of the PNP behind the Espinosa execution who were relieved for involvement in illegal drugs.
He fans extreme prejudice against drug users whom he has adjudged as social dregs and openly encourages their summary killing. He chooses to be blind to the deep social and economic roots-unemployment, low wages, poverty and hunger-behind the problem of widespread drug addiction and insists on his killing spree.
He has arrogated judicial powers by coming-up with a so-called narco-list of supposed big drug lords and coddlers. He has practically upturned the universally accepted principle of the criminal justice system: he makes the accusations and demands those he accuse to prove their innocence. Duterte’s drug-tagging is a virtual death sentence which only he can lift.
He has employed this power to sow fear and demand obeisance and loyalty of police and military officers, as well as local and congressional politicians; as well as a tool to persecute his rivals and render them inutile. Duterte’s anti-drug war has become an additional arsenal in the factional rivalries among the ruling classes.
Demand justice and defend human rights
Amid continuing abuses of human rights by the Duterte government, the Filipino people must unite and demand justice for all victims of military and police abuses.
Duterte’s display of utter disregard for human rights must be denounced by the Filipino people. They must condemn his threats to include human rights organizations among the target of his anti-drug killings.
He must be opposed in his drive to employ the police and military to trample on human rights with impunity. He must be castigated for any plan to suspend the writ of habeas corpus or bring back martial law.
The Filipino people must unite to demand an end to the war of suppression. They must call for the immediate pull-out of AFP combat troops from their communities. They must raise the demand to free all political prisoners.
The friends and loved ones of victims of extrajudicial killings, including those killed in the course of the war against drugs, must raise their voices and demand justice and reparation from the Duterte government.