Attacks vs rights defenders intensify, Duterte and his mercenaries responsible - Karapatan

“Contrary to the statement of Malacañang’s mouthpieces, including that of recently appointed Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Duterte is a human rights violator, peddling fascist policies that continue the killing, illegal arrests and harassment directed against human rights workers. Through state policies such as counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan and the war on drugs, he sanctions State security forces with the license to kill, ensuring they have the resources, funds, and protection to go forward with their killing spree. By allowing his counterinsurgency program to continuously wreck havoc among the ranks of rights defenders, Duterte should ultimately be held responsible for these ongoing and intensifying attacks,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay on the recent spate of violations against human rights defenders in different parts of the country.

In  Gubat, Sorsogon, Bicol, a paralegal of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) was gunned down by two armed men on the morning of October 25, 2017. Edwin Pura, 49, was a paralegal staff of NUPL Second Vice President for Luzon, Atty. Ron Ely Espinosa. Atty. Espinosa himself recently survived a failed attempt on his life sometime in the last week of August 2017.  
Pura is a former Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and transport group leader in Sorsogon province. According to initial reports, Pura's companion, Willy Broño, was also shot dead, while another lady victim identified as Grace Merilo was rushed to the hospital.
On October 27, 2016, joint forces of the 24th IBPA, 7th Infantry Division (ID) and the PNP raided the home of peasant leader Eugene Antonio in Mudiit, Dolores, Abra. They served a search warrant for weapons that Antonio allegedly possessed; the search yielded nothing. Instead, soldiers and police seized documents of the Mudiit People’s Organization, a local group of which Antonio is an officer. Antonio, also a pastor, has received death threats and has been the subject of red-tagging after the 24th IBPA accused him of being an NPA supporter.

On the same day in Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur, Julito Otacan, a field worker of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), along with five other Banwaon community members, were arrested by elements of the 26th IBPA. Otacan, along with Alejandro Barluado, Jonas Acosta, Noli Tahudan, Marlon Talatayod, and Joel Trasona, were taken to the Police Station in Rubako, San Luis, Agusan del Sur after soldiers allegedly found grenades, firearms, and other equipment in the residents’ houses. The five arrested along with Otacan are all members of the Banwaon Peoples’ Organization, Tagdumahan, a group consistently targeted because of their struggles and campaigns against logging and mining concessions infringing on the  Banwaon’s ancestral domain.

A day later, on October 28, 2017, Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) chairperson Windel  Bolinget and vice-chairperson Xavier Akin, along wth staff of the Center for Development Programs (CDPC) were flagged down by elements of the PNP twice while on their way to Baguio – the first incident in Tirad Pass while the group was traversing the Santiago-Quirino road and the second instance in Lidlida, Ilocos Sur. They were held without charges, with the police failing to provide any valid explanation for detaining the group. Bolinget, Akin, and CDPC staff were eventually allowed to pass an hour after they were accosted.

“The common thread that ties these attacks is the continued implementation of the Duterte regime’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, which explicity and systematically legitimizes violations against human rights defenders using the catch-all rhetoric of them being ‘enemies of the State’. State security forces, aptly called mercenaries, have become ruthless instruments in repressing and violating people’s rights. We demand an end to these attacks against human rights defenders, along with the call to hold the perpetrators responsible. We likewise call for the Duterte regime to end all fascist policies that have facilitated attacks against the Filipino people,” Palabay concluded.