Members of the Ateneo academic community on Saturday, March 13, condemned the "Bloody Sunday" operations in Calabarzon, which killed 9 activists and arrested 6 others.
Signed by 160 people, the statement called out the Duterte administration for promoting a culture of impunity, starting from the drug war.
"The Duterte government and its apologists continue to utilize and justify this heavy-handed approach not only toward those suspected of involvement in illegal drugs, but also against opposition groups, social activists, and critics of this administration," the statement said.
"The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and Operation Tokhang under the so-called 'war on drugs' are the operational mechanisms to implement the 'kill-kill-kill' orders of the President," it added.
The members of the Ateneo academic community pointed out that Executive Order No. 70, which created NTF-ELCAC, was supposed to civilian agency-led, by helping communities to receive support from the government.
Calabarzon police chief Brigadier General Felipe Natividad earlier said the operations are "only in compliance with Duterte's EO 70."
"The irony is that with EO 70 in place, the security forces are not letting civilian agencies take the lead but instead see it as a license for a more ruthless and militaristic 'enemy-centered' approach, reminiscent of the discredited and ineffective security operations undertaken by past administrations," it added.
Ateneo professors and lecturers slammed the Duterte administration's "continuing disregard of human dignity and its trampling upon people’s basic rights to life and liberty."
They added that the police and the military allowed themselves to used by those in power.
The members of the Ateneo academic community also pointed out that critisms against the government was not illegal and slammed the relentless red-tagging by the NTF-ELCAC.
"The NTF-ELCAC’s obsession with red-tagging and targeting critics and activists endangers human lives. It is counter-productive from its supposed aim of ending armed conflict. It only polarizes politics and begets more violence," the statement said.
"It is the duty of every citizen to be vigilant of the government – to criticize or support it when called for. Security is a public good; it is not and should not be a privilege that those in power can use at their whim and for their own personal, private benefit," it added.
The signatories also challenged the police and the military to remain faithful to their mandate "to serve and protect," and for the government to investigate those who use their power for "narrow" interests.
"We call on our people to be more politically engaged to ensure that the government uses its power to safeguard human dignity, uplift the poor, and promote the common good," the statement said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said that the appointment of Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr as NTF-ELCAC may be unconstitutional, given that the task force is supposed to be a civilian entity.