human rights in the Philippines

Groups assess ‘state of human rights’ under Duterte ahead of SONA 2020

Aina Robeniol
'Maisasalarawan natin ang kalagayan ng karapatang pantao bilang isang lumalala na epidemya ng terorismo ng estado, kawalang katarungan at malubhaang mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao,' says Karapatan

Days before President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his 5th State of the Nation address, sectoral group leaders vowed to defend what they called the “worsening” human rights violations in the country.

In an online protest on Thursday, July 23, groups including Karapatan Timog Katagalugan, Bayan Muna Youth, Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan, Youth Advocates for Peace with Justice- UPLB, Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan-Kilusang Mayo Uno, and Defend Southern Tagalog came together to assess the human rights situation under the Duterte administration.

“Apat na taon na sa panunungkulan ni pangulong Rodrigo Duterte. Maisasalarawan natin ang kalagayan ng karapatang pantao bilang isang lumalala na epidemya ng terorismo ng estado, kawalang katarungan at malubhaang mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao,” said Karapatan National Deputy Secretary-General Roneo Clamor.

(President Rodrigo Duterte has been in office for 4 years. We can depict the situation of our human rights as a worsening epidemic of the state’s terrorism, injustice, and grave human rights violations.)

The group documented 318 victims of extrajudicial killings and 456 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings (excluding drug-related cases), and 952  victims of illegal arrests and detention from July 2016 to June 2020.

He mentioned reports from and sent to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, validating the Duterte administration’s persistent negligence over extrajudicial killings and politically motivated arrests.

The leaders warned of even more human rights violations with the implementation of the new anti-terrorism law. 

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate pointed out the controversial law’s unconstitutional provisions and how it threatens basic human rights

“Itong batas na ito ay buong-buo nang epektibo at ang mga masasamang napapaloob na mga probisyon sa batas na ito ay pwede nang gamitin sa kahit sinumang Pilipino na sa tingin nila ay gumagawa ng tinatawag nilang ‘act of terrorism’ o mga gawaing terorismo,” Zarate said.

(This law is fully effective and its harmful provisions could be used against any Filipino whom they think is involved in acts of terrorism.)

Some speakers had experienced the abuses firsthand and explained how the new law could lead to more human rights abuses against the youth, farmers, students, and ordinary individuals. 

A day after the law was signed, cops arrested 11 individuals at an anti-terrorism law rally in Laguna. Bayan Muna Youth representative Emmanuel Numeron was one of them. 

Numeron recalled his experience of being part of the Cabuyao 11, who were arrested and manhandled by police even if the protesters observed physical distancing and wore face masks while holding a peaceful protest.

Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan Secretary General  Orly Marcellana noted how the police and the military have always accused members of peasant organizations in Southern Tagalog as being members of the New People’s Army.

“Kung may tunay pong terorista sa ating bayan, sino po ba ang nagmassacre sa Mendiola massacre? Sino po ba ang nagmassacre sa Hacienda Luisita, sa mga kapatid nating magsasaka? Sino pong nagmassacre sa Kidapawan (If there really are terrorists in our country, who was responsible for the Mendiola massacre? Who massacred our farmers in Hacienda Luisita? Who carrie out the massacre in Kidapawan)?” he asked.

Marcellana said that authorities have been using the terrorist tag on groups and individuals who are, in fact, serving marginalized communities and promoting the welfare of Filipinos.

Marcellana, together with other members of various sectoral groups, also denounced the government’s red-tagging campaign, saying activists such as himself will not stand idly by if human rights are attacked.  –