2016 Natl elections marred by killing, red-tagging and disenfranchisement

Dear Friends,

The 2016 campaign period for the national elections will soon conclude as Filipinos cast their votes on May 9.

Please join us in calling for an end to the string of violence, harassment and red-tagging committed  against persons and groups to smear legitimate electoral campaigns that put forward the advocacies of peoples and sectors. As the violent and fraudulent character of this electoral process unfold and intensify, we call on everyone to condemn the killing of Emil Go, a volunteer for the Cerbito for Governor Movement, as well as the harassments done against its volunteers. Moreover, we condemn the continuing series of red-baiting against progressive candidates and partylist groups. There is no place for such in a supposedly democratic process.

Let us also join hands in calling for a proper mechanism of voting for our Lumad brothers and sisters still in evacuation centers. We continue the call for the pull-out of military and paramilitary forces in their communities so our brothers and sisters can return safely to their ancestral lands.  The Lumad are displaced from their land; let us not allow them to be denied another right—their right of suffrage.

We ask all to remain vigilant. As we condemn these acts of election-related violence, we can only be strengthened in the resolve to continue to tread the path towards national democracy.

Our documented incidents include:

Extrajudicial Killing

On April 29, 2016, at around 5:30 a.m., Emil Go was shot to death by two men on board a motorcycle. He was a Sangguniang Bayan (SB) Secretary at Brgy. Tinampo, Palapag, Northern Samar, and an active supporter of Fr. Walter Cerbito, an independent gubernatorial candidate challenging the incumbent governor, Jose Ong under the Daza-Ong coalition.

The Daza-Ong coalition represents the two major political dynasties in the province of Samar,  believed to be the alleged perpetrators behind the killing of Emil Go. Fr. Walter Cerbito’s candidacy has gathered broad support with his crusade against political dynasties, corruption, human rights violations, and moral degeneration.

It was not only Emil Go, but several other members of the Cerbito for Governor Movement who experienced a series of harassments throughout the election season. According to Fr. Ric Melendres, spokesperson of the movement, leaflets linking Fr. Cerbito to the New People’s Army (NPA) were distributed by his political opponents. This action makes Fr. Cerbito and his supporters targets of the military; and, at the same time dissuade voters by using the worn-out tactic of red-baiting.

Also, earlier in April, a supporter from the town of Gamay, survived an attempted assassination by a bodyguard of a politician linked to the Daza-Ong coalition, Fr. Melendres reports. This was followed by the harassment of youth members of the Cerbito for Governor Movement. Even the satellite campaign office was not spared with consistent monitoring and harassment.

On April 29, 2016, right after the death of Emil Go, another campaign organizer was harassed by two armed men near the Cerbito for Governor Movement office in Catarman.

Harassment and red-tagging of progressive candidates

Similar forms of harassment abound against progressive candidates and partylists  through social media and text messaging.

A certain community page on Facebook named ‘Pinoy Redwatch’ is out to thwart the bid of the progressives to gain seats in Congress. Using the worn-out tactic of red scare, the ‘Pinoy Redwatch’ and several other social media trolls desperately links the MAKABAYAN Coalition and its 11 member-partylist groups and senatorial bet Neri Colmenares with the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army to dissuade voters.

Colmenares and the Makabayan coalition are known staunch critics of the Aquino administration. The MAKABAYAN Coalition advocates an alternative to traditional politics, for politics of change.

A quick browse of the ‘Pinoy Redwatch’ page would reveal a string of red-tagging on several other legal people’s organizations—even those not vying for electoral position. The Facebook community page, however, is curiously silent on atrocities done by state security forces; it attacks presidential candidates, but withholds judgement on the Liberal Party’s standard bearers. The page also openly promotes the senatorial bid of retired Gen. Jovito Palparan, known as the ‘butcher’ for his notorious record of human rights violations.

Possible disenfranchisement of Lumad evacuees

If the minimalist definition of democracy simply means the existence of elections and the right to vote, the disenfranchisement of the Lumad in evacuation centers looms.  

In the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran in Davao City, where communities from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon have evacuated since last year, 100 out of the 375 remaining evacuees face possible disenfranchisement, according to Jong Monzon of PASAKA, a Federation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao. No mechanism has been arranged for them to vote.

A mechanism was laid down for the more than 900 voters among the 2,330 Lumad evacuees at the Tandag Sports Complex to cast their votes on May 9.  But it is still uncertain how this will work out on election day.

The evacuees have been at the Tandag City Sports Complex for eight months now, right after the September 1, 2015 massacre in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

As of now, military operations have not ceased in the Lumad communities in Agusan, Surigao, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon provinces.

Recommended actions:

Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

1.    The immediate investigation on the death of Emil Go;
2.    An end to the continuing harassment and intimidation of the Cerbito for Governor Movement, progressive partylist organizations, and their respective volunteers;
3.    An end to red-baiting that make persons targets of the military and other state security forces;
4.    An investigation on the use of State resources and security forces for election-related  smear campaigns;
5.    The pull-out of military and paramilitary forces in Lumad communities;
6.    A mechanism to be in place that will allow displaced communities to exercise their right to vote; and
7.    The Philippine Government to strictly uphold the Omnibus Election Code, specifically Article XXII, which penalizes parties or candidates who commit election offenses, including coercion of subordinates and the use of violence against persons to desist or malign electoral campaigns.

You may send your communications to:
H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
E-mail: op@president.gov.ph

Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216

Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600
Fax:+63(2) 982-5600
Email: osnd@philonline.com, dnd.opla@gmail.com

Emmanuel L. Caparas
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline:  523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614
Email:  soj@doj.gov.ph

Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below:

URGENT ACTION Prepared by:
KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
National Office
2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin cor Matatag Sts., Brgy. Central,
Diliman, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146
Email: urgentaction@karapatan.org; karapatan@karapatan.org
Website: www.karapatan.org