MANILA, Philippines — Days after President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the government would not only arrest communist rebels but also go after “all legal fronts” allegedly aiding the Left, human rights group Karapatan said the chief executive’s verbal threats had resulted in political killings, abduction, illegal arrests, and forcible evacuation of members of 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,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general, in a statement issued Monday.
Last Nov. 22, while at Fort Magsaysay in Palayan, Nueva Ecija, Duterte said he would also treat alleged members of the Left’s legal fronts as terrorists and criminals and “we will arrest everybody connected” with the communists, “even their legal fronts.”
2 activists killed in Mindanao
Karapatan said that after the President’s pronouncement, two members of organizations allegedly “red-tagged by the military as a legal front of the New People’s Army” were killed in Mindanao.
The first victim, peasant leader Vivencio Sahay, chairperson of the Unyon sa Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte, a local peasant organization affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas was gunned down by unknown gunmen in Brgy. Calamba, Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte last November 23.
On November 25, Apolonio Maranan, 24, a resident of DDF Village, Barangay Mandug, Buhangin District, Davao City, and a member of Aanakpawis party-list, was shot dead by “suspected members of the 16th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army,” according to Kaparatan.
The group said that 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.
Last November 23, another peasant leader, Jerry Santiago, a Mangyan from Oriental Mindoro, was illegally arrested allegedly by elements of the police in Bulalacao town.
“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,” Karapatan said.
Santiago is currently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Roxas, Oriental Mindoro.
3 farmers ‘abducted’ in Northern Samar
His arrest was followed by the abduction of three farmers — Richard Avino, Teny Gerbon and Arnel Aquino — in Brgy. Osmena, Palapag, Northern Samar last November 24.
“The whereabouts of the three 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,” said Palabay.
Also, Karapatan said that Sargie Macallan, coordinator of Katungod-Northern Samar, was physically assaulted allegedly by the commanding officer of the Civil-Military Operations Battalion in their Opong detachment last November 26.
“Macallan was strangled by LTC George Domingo while the former was seeking dialogue in light of efforts to ascertain the location of the three farmers,” Palabay said.
“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 the case of Lumad communities in Caraga.
“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 Karapatan secretary-general said.
“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,” she added.