photo by KARAPATAN
Unfazed by lockdown restrictions, human rights alliance Karapatan and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan led thousands of human rights advocates, civil libertarians, and progressive groups in marching to Mendiola to commemorate this year’s International Human Rights Day amid what the groups have called “an epidemic of State terrorism and repression” that is “alarmingly plunging the country deeper and deeper into a rapidly deteriorating human rights crisis and fascist rule under the dictator wannabe Rodrigo Duterte and his demonic cabal of notorious human rights violators and war criminals.”
“The murderous carnage in his sham drug war along with the cold-blooded murders of political dissenters and human rights defenders, arbitrary detention of activists, militarization and harassment of communities, and rabid red-tagging rampage under the government’s bloody counterinsurgency campaign have only escalated in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic — and Duterte seems to be gearing up for a more brutal assault on people’s rights and dissent with the passage of his terror law. We commemorate the International Human Rights Day today with strong indignation and as we remain in our struggle for justice and to resist and end Duterte’s bloody reign of State terror,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.
Karapatan has documented 353 victims of extrajudicial killings under the course of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign from July 2016 to November 2020, on top of the thousands killed in the drug war. At least 188 of the victims are human rights defenders, among them Karapatan paralegal Zara Alvarez, who was shot dead in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental last August 17. The human rights watchdog has also documented 488 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 218 tortured, 18 enforced disappearances, and 103,193 individuals threatened and harassed. 656 political prisoners remain behind bars, with 426 detainees arrested under the Duterte administration alone, and courts have refused to grant humanitarian release to elderly and sick detainees among them as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages the country’s highly congested prisons.
Palabay continued that “Duterte, amid his blatant lies, said one thing loud and clear just a few days ago: he doesn’t care about human rights, and none of his sycophants and fake promises before the international community can disguise the reality of his bloody reign of State terror and the long list of civil and political rights violations that came in its wake along with the disastrous consequences of blatant State neglect with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent typhoons — exacerbating the effects of decades of systemic violations of people’s economic, social, and cultural rights brought by anti-people economic policies and programs.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore the State’s neglect of the people’s rights to health, to food, to decent work, to housing, to education and his driven thousands and thousands of Filipinos into abject poverty and suffering — and yet, instead of addressing the people’s legitimate demands, the Duterte administration would rather funnel billions of the government’s budget to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict and its league of crazed warmongers, sycophants, and bloodthirsty militarists Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Antonio Parlade Jr., Lorraine Badoy, Eduardo Año, and Debold Sinas in order to ramp up their campaign of State terrorism and mass deception, and to consolidate Duterte’s tyrannical rule,” she said.
The Karapatan official further stated that “from the enactment of the draconian terror law, the shutdown of ABS-CBN and other attacks on journalists and press freedom, and frenzied red-tagging tirades against progressive lawmakers and human rights advocates, Duterte has unsurprisingly chosen the path of war, violence, militarism, and fascism over the path towards just and lasting peace — and this has become rather clear now that he stated that he would never again declare another ceasefire with communist rebels under his term nor engage them in peace negotiations. His McCarthyite vow to crush the communist rebels before the end of his term has been historically proven to fail, but it also definitely means a more violent, more rabid, and more brutal crackdown on all forms of dissent.”
Palabay also scored the continuing support of governments such as that of the United States and China on the Duterte administration through millions of aid for the drug war and counterinsurgency campaigns despite strong international condemnation of the international community on the regime’s bloody human rights record and the call for an international, independent and impartial investigation on the situation in the Philippines.
“Duterte is desperately clinging to power, and while his terroristic threats pose a clear and grave danger upon people’s lives, liberty, and security, the struggle for justice and accountability for all victims of human rights violations must be asserted now more than ever. This International Human Rights Day, we stand together in resisting State terrorism. There is never any lockdown for people’s rights and our continuous struggle to defend and advance them — and it is in our collective action that we win this battle against tyranny and dictatorship,” she ended.