October 20, 2021
Today marks the 3rd year of the Sagay massacre where nine sugar workers including four women and two children were killed in Hacienda Nene, Negros Occidental. This was followed by more massacres, such as the Tumanduk massacre in Panay, the Bloody Sunday in Southern Tagalog, and the second Lianga massacre in Surigao. Just like previous massacres such as the cases of Mendiola, Escalante, and Hacienda Luisita, among others, the perpetrators remain at large.
On October 17, two days after the annual celebration of the International Day of Rural Women, Cristina Magistrado, a former peasant organizer of Amihan-Cagayan Valley was arrested on trumped-up charges at her home in Binangonan, Rizal by seven plainclothes police officers.
These separate incidents confirm that human rights violations and impunity are relentless and worsening. Civil society (CSOs) and people’s organizations (POs) believe that this is institutionalized through the administration’s war on drugs and the counterinsurgency program in the guise of national security.
Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) raises alarm on these non-stop and wholesale violations of people’s rights and lingering impunity especially as the 2022 national elections close in. CPDG spokesperson Liza Maza said that incumbent administrations are known to use a climate of terror against critics and the opposition for electoral advantage, such the red-tagging and terror-tagging in the 2016 national and 2019 midterm elections.
“We saw so many forms of political repression in the 2016 presidential and 2019 senatorial races. The chilling effect among voters is even more worrying today after the greatly heightened red-tagging sicne the formation of the national countertinsurgency task force,” Maza said.
During the 2019 election season, Kontra Daya-Metro Manila reported red-tagging and harassment of campaign volunteers of Leftist partylist groups. Data from human rights group Karapatan, meanwhile, recorded a steady increase of arrests against activists since 2016, with a drastic increase between July 2019 until August 2020 (a total of 1,263 cases) even when the pandemic was in full swing. A total of 394 extrajudicial killings were recorded as well, with the period of July 2017 to June 2019 already seeing the most cases.
Aside from the political implications of the human rights crisis on the elections, Maza said that government inaction on thousands of cases reported by CSOs to national and international mechanisms shows that human rights have no value under the Duterte administration.
“Violations continue unhampered despite growing condemnation by the international community,” Maza noted, citing the recent resolution issued by the United Nations Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court’s authorization on the investigation of extrajudicial killings committed under Pres. Duterte’s governance. This also shows that the administration is desperately employing all tactics to maintain power.
CPDG pointed out that the climate of impunity worsened by the administration’s draconian policies must immediately stop as it will create a condition for worse political violence in the coming elections.
“The task of the civil society is to expose the current ills that confront the country and ensure the integrity of the electoral process. The 2022 National Elections is a looming battle to reverse the situation where we can fight to retake our hard-won democratic rights and bring justice to the victims of violations and their families,” Maza ended. #