Karapatan assails recent killing of activists, harassment against rights defenders

Human rights group Karapatan condemns the Duterte regime for the incessant attacks against activists and human rights defenders. Recently, a farmer activist and a village watchman were killed; and a peasant leader was abducted.

“The human rights situation in the country is reaching a critical level. The frequency and the brazenness with which all these violations are happening are alarming. Our country has descended into a distorted killing arena where everyone is targeted and the perpetrators are shielded from accountability. Only state forces who are protected by despots are capable of inflicting nationwide irreparable damage to thousands of Filipino families, and yet are still free to commit more atrocities,” said Karapatan vice-chairperson Reylan Vergara.

According to reports, 57-year-old Nedis Bacong, a local leader of the farmers’ group KASAMA-Bukidnon was shot thrice by his assailant who entered his home on Wednesday night, September 11, in Little Baguio, San Fernando, Bukidnon. He was the 15th in the string of people’s defenders who were killed in the province this year.

In Isabela, after being suspected to have links with the New People’s Army, 37-year-old Sammy Pahayon was killed by unidentified gunmen who entered their house in San Mariano, Isabela on the same day.

In Negros Occidental, Joel Casusa, chairman of the Kauswagan ng Mangunguma sa Barangay Buenavista (KMB) was reportedly abducted by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on September 11. As of this writing, the victim remains missing.

“These reports came in while the Commission on Human Rights was conducting its National Inquiry on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the country. The police and the military have denied the attacks. They have likewise denied, ridiculed and undermined the continuous red-tagging and harassment against human rights defenders, indifferent to the actual trends of how the former preludes the killings of defenders. To them, it is never their fault. Their victims are always those who fought back – the terrorists, the communists, the devils, the drug addicts. Wittingly, amid their denials, they have plunged the country and its people into a horrid state of bloodshed, cruelty, lies, and impunity,” added Vergara.

The Karapatan official also added that this series of attacks merely attest to the government’s desperate greed for power: “People are feeling the failures of this government. From the release of Chinese drug lords and rich rapists and murderers, to the criminal neglect of our farmers and agricultural sector, the hypocrisy and ineffectiveness of this government is becoming salient. This is why those who further highlight these ironies and failures are aggressively silenced,” he added.

The Karapatan official offered the organization's deepest sympathies with the families of the victims. He likewise demanded for an impartial and thorough investigation on the said killings and abduction.

“We are nearing September 21; the day dictator Marcos declared martial law. Unlike Marcos, Duterte is carefully arranging his pawns and planning his steps. Dictatorship can mask itself in new and emerging forms, but it is always marked by the killings and repression of all those who seek to expose it. We will continue to call for justice and accountability, alongside our resolve to resist tyranny,” concluded Vergara.