Duterte’s 4th SONA: Three Years of State Terrorism, Deteriorating Human Rights Situation, and Gross Impunity

“The Duterte government is deliberately fueling fears and paranoia, spewing dangerous and oftentimes unfounded claims on criminality and terrorism. The three years of this government is anchored on bloated statistics and disinformation meant to justify widespread repression and unnecessary brutality directed towards the poor, the oppressed, and the critical. There is no transparency amid the wholesale abuse of power, corruption, and human rights violations. It has been three years of injustice,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay during President Rodrigo Duterte’s 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA).

She added that even as the people are exercising their fundamental rights to protest, to peaceful assembly and association, the warmongers are incessant in their efforts to insinuate malice. “The Philippine National Police has earlier announced that it will conduct random inspections of protesters’ belongings, which is not only a scare tactic and a harassment scheme, but will also render protesters vulnerable to the PNP’s expertise of planting evidence and making dubious claims and charges. We do not trust the PNP, with its bloody record in the country’s anti-narcotics and counterinsurgency campaigns. If anyone is looking for the instigators of violence, then the men in uniform are the foremost violators in this country,” she continued.

Karapatan joined thousand others in a protest, dubbed as the People’s SONA, which coincided with the President’s SONA. The rights group featured a recreation of Ursula, a sea witch from a fairytale adapted from the work of Hans Christian Andersen. Ursula was a deceitful sea witch and monster who made appealing deals to desperate people, promising to give them what they want on arbitrary and unjust conditions.

Palabay explained that “this situation is similar to that of the Filipino people who were victimized, and later on blamed and further persecuted. Duterte has no doubt taken advantage of the desperation of the people for a better, more dignified life. Yet he has used the so-called democratic processes to install an undemocratic and anti-people government. Now, we are at a steep descent towards a full-blown dictatorship.”

“Our version of Ursula is a depiction of Duterte’s rule in his three years. With his eight tentacles, each has a representation of policy or issue that has been detrimental to the lives of Filipinos. The 8 themes are: tyranny, killings, violations on the country’s sovereignty, trumped-up charges against political dissenters and critics, martial law, misogyny, red-tagging and attacks against human rights defenders, and impunity,” she added. 

The Karapatan official said that the real issues of the people will be expectedly glossed over by Duterte’s SONA: “The lives and realities of the poor and oppressed do not matter to this government. The legitimate calls and demands of the people for justice and accountability will be ignored, and pending investigations will be undermined in Duterte’s speech. The President’s SONA is addressed to the rich, the comfortable, his fellow plunderers, fellow criminals – both within and outside the country. It is not, and was never, reflective of the real state of the nation.”

According to Karapatan, it has documented 266 victims of extrajudicial killings in line with the Duterte regime’s counterinsurgency programs Oplan Kapayapaan and Kapanatagan, on top of the thousands reported in line with Duterte’s sham drug war. On top of this, the rights group also recorded 404 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 1,850 victims of illegal arrests, 134 tortured, 443 victims of illegal search and seizure, and 451,323 victims of forcible displacement. Palabay explained that these violations are a direct result of the implementation of Duterte’s counterinsurgency programs – from Oplan Kapayapaan to Oplan Kapanatagan.

“The Filipino people are drowning in militarist and repressive policies. The country is in mourning for the thousands of lives lost, and the Palace remains in denial, convinced of the righteousness of its policies. It continues to move towards injustice, bringing with it an emboldened military and police that are drunk in power, assured of Duterte’s protection. Duterte is the real coddler of criminals, rapists, murderers, and thieves. It has been three years of State terrorism and gross impunity. We thus echo the battle cry of groups joined together in protest: Tama na! Sobra na! Wakasan na!” Palabay concluded.