Karapatan cites urgency of the human rights crisis in the country, presses for probe and accountability during 2019 IHRD

"There is a human rights crisis in the country. Regardless of the denials and legal acrobatics by the Duterte government, it has made its mark as a murderous regime that disregards people’s rights. This government's record is besmirched with blood, with thousands killed in the sham drug war and counterinsurgency program, thousands displaced by bombings and militarization, hundreds arbitrarily detained and filed with trumped-up charges, and thousands more harassed, red-tagged, and threatened for their activism. As we commemorate the International Human Rights Day, we witness how far the country has regressed in terms of upholding, respecting, and protecting people's rights," said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

According to Karapatan, on top of the thousands killed in the drug war, the group has documented 293 political killings - 167 of which are human rights defenders. At least 204 were tortured, 429 were victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 11 were forcibly disappeared, and 94,075 were threatened and harassed. It is also under Duterte that the number of political prisoners in the country have sharply risen. Having arrested 382 of the 629 political detainees in the country, the Duterte government is responsible for the unjust incarceration of more than half of political prisoners in the country.

"This is a manifestation of the political decay ushered by Duterte's militarist leadership. Alongside this rotting political system and economic decay is the breeding of a monster," said Palabay, introducing the protest's effigy by artist group Ugat Lahi which depicts Duterte as "halimaw sa cauldron." The image of Duterte, she adds, is at the stage of rapid decomposition, with two massive arms tattooed with symbols of the US and China portraying Duterte’s loyalties to interests of both governments, and hands which represent Duterte's reign of terror. The symbol of the cauldron is also in reference to the ongoing Southeast Asian (SEA) Games where decadence and illusions of grandeur are used to hide the alarming debt trap and continuing corruption in the country," Palabay explained.

The Karapatan official said that "Duterte's hand in the rampant violations perpetrated under his term is evident. This is made clear with the barrage of repressive policies that is meant to justify repression and funnel State resources to silence critics. This government is a failure, yet instead of addressing its shortcomings, it would rather shoot the messengers and kill those who raise legitimate people’s concerns and issues."

She highlighted that among the foremost repressive policies on Duterte's playbook are its sham drug war, its counterinsurgency progam Oplan Kapanatagan, martial law in Mindanao, Memorandum No. 32, and its new task force for harassing legal organizations, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) created by Executive Order No. 70 (s2018). "These policies should be junked as they worsen the militarist character of this government. As these policies continue to terrorize communities, it does nothing in solving the social and economic ills plaguing our country," Palabay said, urging support for the resumption of the peace negotiations.

"This government is vindictive, but it is scared and desperate. It capitalizes on narratives aimed at glorifying Duterte and his so-called iron fist rule, but it buckles down when investigations on its crimes against the Filipino people are encouraged and conducted. This is one important thing that we must continue to press. Alongside the families of victims of human rights violations, we must always remind this government that impunity is not forever; that the day for justice and accountability is just around the corner," she further stated.

In Metro Manila, protest rallies were held at the Liwasang Bonifacio and Mendiola Bridge in Manila. Coordinated protest actions were also held at the Igorot Park in Baguio City; in Naga City, Sorsogon City, Masbate City and Legaspi City, all in Bicol Region; in Sunburst Park, Iloilo City; Roxas City; Kalibo, Aklan; and San Jose, Antique; in the Provincial Capitol Lagoon, Bacolod City; Tagbilaran City, Bohol; Tacloban City, Leyte; Freedom Park, Catarman, Northern Samar and Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental; at PNP Region 7 Office and at the Plaza Independencia, Cebu City; and in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur; Butuan City, Agusan del Norte; and Freedom Park, Davao City. 

"This International Human Rights Day, we defend together. Our collective action is a powerful weapon that has historically put tyrants in their place behind bars. We are reminded that rights do not fall from trees, but that it must continuously be asserted, defended and fought for. We prepare for the battles ahead as a full-blown dictatorship looms closer," Palabay concluded.