From the mouth of the tyrant
Fighting the Witch Hunt in the Phillipines. On how the Duterte regime 'red-tags' or progressives labels for murder, and has been condemned by international agencies including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
As the country celebrated Bonifacio Day in memory of the foremost Filipino revolutionary Andres Bonifacio, the despotic President Rodrigo Roa Duterte used a mouthful of expletives during his weekly “Talk to the People on COVID-19” tele-conference. Duterte accused the progressive groups and members of the Makabayan bloc in Congress of a strong connection with the NDF (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) and CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army) as front organizations and as members respectively. Clearly saying: “We are not tagging you, we are identifying you as communists!”
The all-out campaign against the members and leaders of the progressive organizations, often brutal, has turned into an all-out war-on-rights. This disregards the respect for human rights. Negros island is a seed-bed of gruesome killings of farmers and activists, and all across the country reported arrests and intimidations are not uncommon.
These clear, not cryptic words of Duterte is a warning. He said: “It is a grand conspiracy, so the liability of a mere soldier is the liability of all the members of the front organizations, so…” There were then missing words, as the video was deliberately edited. But clearly he was continuing his statement “what to do with you, including the members of Congress.” (The missing words could be: ‘if one of the soldiers died, the military knows what to do with you…’)
Lately, in the midst of the pandemic, brutal killings of human rights and peace advocates have the element of military-style execution. Namely the assassinations of Randall Echanis, Jory Porquia, Zara Alvarez, Julius Giron, Dr. Ma. Lourdes Tangco, Arvie Reyes; and just last November 25, 2020 the murder of the elderly couple Eugenia Magpantay and Agaton Topacio by the Philippine National Police (PNP) raiding team. And the arrests and abductions of grassroots leaders in the provinces.
Words without justice
Rodrigo Roa Duterte had already executed more than 30,000 Filipinos immediately after taking his oath as President of the country. In his War-On-Drugs campaign, he publicly ordered the PNP to execute drug lords, addicts, peddlers and even those suspected users.
With authorization from the Office of the President, a killing spree engulfed all of the islands; at the height of the campaign reaching 15 to 30 killings per day. And many police stations stopped investigating any kind of killing under their jurisdiction.
His words in the past and in recent months have never received utter condemnation from Congress and the Supreme Court; all were coded and zipped in silence. And yet, progressive and militant organizations in the country and abroad are amplifying the calls against the killings and for the ouster of Duterte. They have been heard, as condemnations have come from international organizations and the UN.
Deaths by the state forces
Bayan Muna Representative Isagani Zarate was blatantly named by Duterte when he said “you are co-conspirators, you are communist, I knew… when I was Mayor of Davao…” Duterte’s words should not be taken lightly. That is a 'go' signal for the state forces, to execute the “co-conspirators” of the communist insurgency. “The president's red-tagging on the members of the Makabayan bloc is not only ridiculous but endangers the life of those named. This is tyrannical and dictatorial at its best!” said Bishop Antonio Ablon, IFI, Europe Network for Justice and Peace in the Philippines (ENJJP) head, and Coordinator of Europe Chaplaincy.
The state-forces are without mercy in executing the orders from the military and police officers. We saw this in the case of the death and burial of Baby River and the brutal treatment of the child’s mother, activist Reina Nasino.
The military has intensified their red-tagging campaign efforts thru the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). This agency was created by the military to foster a pseudo-war scenario against recognized progressive political groups, and civil and church organizations. Recently, the NTF-ELCAC proposed a bloated Php 19-Billion budget to Congress (even in the midst of the pandemic and damaging disasters) to be used in a pseudo counter-insurgency program; that has turned bloody and violent in recent months.
Zara Alvarez, a human rights activist assassinated last August 17, 2020, had been receiving death threats and harassment from the military prior to her murder. The systematic killings of activists elicited condemnation from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)“We are saddened and appalled by the ongoing violence and threats against human rights defenders in the Philippines, including the killing of two human rights defenders over the past two weeks,” said Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the OHCHR.
A violent scenario can happen anytime as the state forces uses government resources to project the "surrenders" of fake members of the CPP-NPA, and fake activists and leaders of the communist movement. This serves to red-tag and vilify legitimate progressive leaders and members of the House of Representatives.
As identified and censored by Facebook, the use of black propaganda in social media by the military intelligence is common. Facebook labels it as unethical, as is using Facebook accounts to post violent content and propagate fake news. The Facebook page of the NTF-ELCAC continues to post images of rebels suspectedly killed in military encounters. Just recently, it posted the gruesome photo of Jevilyn Cullamat, a grassroots medic and the daughter of Congresswoman Eufemia Cullamat, the Bayan Muna Representative in Congress. The Congresswoman said in a statement: “I am asking the military not to use the murdered body of my daughter as a trophy…”
Although the words of Duterte contained a command of execution against his critics; the progressive organizations, the members of Makabayan bloc and Church and other sectoral groups will never be cowed and frightened. They remain committed to fight against injustice committed by the Duterte regime and state forces.
In reaction to the press conference of the President Duterte, the Executive Secretary General of Migrante-Europe said:
“Duterte should be reminded that the root cause of why people joined the national democratic movement is because of poverty, landlessness, joblessness, exclusion, issues on national sovereignty, and because they want to see a better Philippines. Tagging or as what he said 'identifying' them as ‘communists’ does not address the legitimate aspiration of the vast majority of Filipinos who only want a better life. It endangers the right of Filipinos to dissent and to struggle to correct the ills of the Philippine society. Duterte's statement endangers the lives of dissenters and critics by probably ordering his military to put national democratic activists in their 'order of battle'. His statement goes against all human rights mechanism that the Republic of the Philippines promised to uphold. Duterte should listen to critics and not identify them as enemies of the state.”
Duterte’s violent threat remains empty in the hearts and minds of those who are fighting against his despotic regime. His dirty words cannot silence the dedication of activists uniting for social justice.
Jaazeal Jakosalem is an active member of the Filipino migrants group Migrante International