Prevailing impunity, continuing human rights violations on Marcos Jr.’s first 100 days in office

“The absence of justice and accountability for the human rights violations committed during the Duterte administration and the continuing grave attacks on human and people’s rights in the country, which are driven by the policies on the drug war and counterinsurgency programs, are fuelling the climate of impunity that is so stark during the first 100 days in office of the Marcos Jr. administration,” said rights group Karapatan, as it marked the occasion in a protest action in Manila on Saturday, October 8.

According to Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, "there has been no let-up in extrajudicial killings, red-tagging, threats and intimidation and other state-sponsored attacks against dissenters and communities, even in the midst of the worsening impacts of the economic crisis on the poor majority.”

Karapatan has documented at least ten victims of extrajudicial killings in the government’s counterinsurgency campaign since July 1, 2022. This includes the killings of copra farmer Crisanto Lagardilla, indigenous people’s leader Dante Yumanaw, nine year-old Kyllene Casao, Pompeo Landisa, peasants Jovel Agudez and Maximo Digmo, couple Greg and Buging Cantilla, daycare teacher Christina Jacolbe, her daughter Everly Kee, and their family friend Roldan Montero. All were civilians, contrary to allegations by units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that they were rebels killed in armed encounters.

At least four victims of enforced disappearances were documented – women’s rights advocates Ma. Elena Pampoza and Elgene Mungcal who were abducted in Tarlac, and peasant couple Geral Ganti and Dalen Alipo-on who were taken from their home in Himamaylan City. Indigenous people’s organizer Steve Tauli was abducted and tortured by suspected State agents.

There were 39 victims of illegal arrests, which include women’s rights advocate and martial law activists Adora Faye de Vera, a rape and torture survivor, and Atel Hijos, both with illnesses and in their senior years. Thirty seven remain detained on trumped-up criminal charges, bringing the total of political prisoners to 842 as of October 6, 2022.

"These rights violations were committed in the name of counterinsurgency, under the baton of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Its favored existence and continuing operations, as well as the increased red- and terrorist-tagging of civilians and use of terror laws, continue to pose real dangers to people’s lives. The implementation of Executive Order No. 70 and the lack of interest to pursue peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines also betray the administration’s militarist approach to the armed conflict,” Palabay said.

Meanwhile, justice for victims of human rights violations during the Duterte administration remains elusive, Karapatan stated, as the government’s drug war panel review and the task force on Administrative Order No. 35 have not yielded substantial results in terms of successful prosecution and conviction of state perpetrators of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, illegal or arbitrary arrests, torture and threats.

“What we heard from Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla in his statement before the UN Human Rights Council do not reflect the realities of the rights situation on the ground. We see no indication that there are ‘transformational’ reforms in the justice system in the country,” the rights group said.

Marcos Jr.’s pronouncements on not rejoining the International Criminal Court (ICC) and refusal to allow the ICC to pursue investigations in the drug war speak volumes on his indifference to pursuing justice and accountability for the anti-drug campaign related killings, Karapatan further stated.

Palabay also slammed the “shamelessness of Marcos Jr. and his family, as they continue to deny the atrocities committed during dictator Marcos’s martial law and persist in their efforts to distort history.”

Equally shameful were scenes of Marcos Jr., his family and cronies hobnobbing abroad with the rich and famous even as peasants back home reeled under the staggering effects of the recent supertyphoon, she said.

"In the first hundred days of Marcos Jr.’s administration, the people's clamor for justice and human rights, for living wages and lower prices of basic commodities, for land and social services rings loud and clear amid the noise of the parties, car-racing and social events attended by the apathetic and profligate camp of Marcos Jr.” concluded Palabay.