MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Thousands of human rights activists and advocates across the Philippines slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s “worsening human rights record” on Saturday, December 10, during the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day.
“As the whole world commemorates International Human Rights Day, the Filipino youth is in rage because of the dire situation of human rights in the Philippines. From bad, the violations in our human rights, has gone to worse under the Duterte regime,” the League of Filipino Students (LFS) said in a statement.
For the first time since Duterte assumed power, militant groups also burned a monstrous effigy said to embody the “authoritarian tendencies” of the new leader in a protest in Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila, which was attended by around 10,000 protesters.
From July 1 to December 3, there have been over 5,800 deaths linked to Duterte‘s “war on drugs” – both from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style or unexplained killings (including deaths under investigation).
“Duterte’s remorseless extra-judicial killings in his crusade against drugs is unacceptable… Duterte has been using this campaign to sow fear among the people,” LFS national spokesperson JP Rosos said.
Luzon takes action
Local chapters of human rights groups joined the main protest in Manila.
In Legazpi City, Albay, a prayer brigade was held at the Albay Cathedral on Thursday night, December 9, to protest against the proposed revival of death penalty and the lowering of minimum age for criminal responsibility.
In Baguio City, a protest was held in Igorot Park. One of the issues raised was the continuous militarization of indigenous communities in Cordillera, where state forces allegedly harass IP women.
Mass movements in Visayas
In the Visayas, around 11,000 protesters marched on the streets of Panay, Negros, and Cebu islands, led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) the Inquirer reported.
In Iloilo City, around 3,000 protesters decried the heroes burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose regime was marred with human rights violations, and the growing number of extra-judicial killings (EJKs).
In Bacolod City, around 1,500 protesters marched from the Provincial Capitol Park and Lagoon and Lupit Church to the public plaza in the afternoon while 200 rallyists, including millenials, held a torch parade from the Capitol to the Fountain of Justice in the evening.
“As a temperamental brat, I take liberty to exercise my right to express my thoughts freely which people in the past fought for, against the suppressive and oppressive Marcos government. Marcos was outright a human rights violator whose iron fist rule killed at least 7,000 individuals,” said Alvin Ballares of Akbayan Youth.
In Roxas City, protesters led by BAYAN burnt an effigy of a crocodile in the public plaza to slam corporate greed.
“We prepared an effigy of a crocodile depicting the greediness of big mining corporations and their local cohorts who are hell-bent in pursuing large-scale commercial mining in the province,” BAYAN Capiz spokesperson Kashmer Diestro said.
In Tacloban City, protesters led by Karapatan also slammed the militarization of their communities.
“We call on the President to categorically order the military, police and para-military units to stop the killings. We urge him to immediately abide by his commitment to release all political prisoners. He must put an end to Oplan Bayanihan which perpetrates state terrorism on civilian communities,” Karapatan, an alliance of human rights groups, said in a statement.
Mindanao wants peace
In Duterte’s hometown Davao City, around 2,000 activists joined the protest reminding the president of his promise of change.
“In Southern Mindanao, there has been 67 victims of extrajudicial killings in the previous US-Aquino regime. In Duterte’s administration, there has been 7 victims of EJK with the continuing program of Oplan Bayanihan pushed by the 10th Infantry Division and Eastern Mindanao Command, and there is still no justice achieved for the people,” Karapatan Southern Mindanao spokesperson Jay Apiag said.
Further south, in General Santos City, Lumad and Moro groups marched for their right to self-determination and called for the release of political prisoners.
According to Karapatan, there are around 400 political prisoners that Duterte has refused to release.
“We urge President Duterte to pursue with vigor the positive commitments he has made like ending contractualization, shifting to an independent foreign policy, negotiating for just and lasting peace, battling corruption in the bureaucracy, and the likes,” Karapatan said in its statement. – Rappler.com