Compassion for allies, violence and repression for “pasaway” critics and the poor

The Duterte regime is hellbent on unleashing State violence and repression on its critics and the poor while reserving compassion for its allies, human rights watchdog Karapatan said, as the group slammed the threats of deportation against an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Taiwan over Facebook posts critical of the government, the violent arrest of a fish vendor in Quezon City, as well as reports of police and barangay officials torturing quarantine violators in Koronadal City.

“While letting the regime’s ‘pasaway’ allies easily get off the hook for violating quarantine measures and other laws, the poor suffer the brunt of the government’s militarist response to the pandemic through violent arrests and even torture on top of the lack of adequate government relief and the loss of their livelihoods. Instead of addressing criticism and the people’s legitimate demands, the government is more invested in threatening critics and ordinary folks with criminal charges. The pandemic is exposing in full the rotten and twisted ways in which the Duterte regime interprets justice and compassion for its own ends,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

On Monday, April 27, authorities from Quezon City’s Oplan Task Force Disiplina were caught on video violently arresting, beating, and dragging fish vendor Michael Rubuia along Panay Avenue simply for failing to wear a face mask. Meanwhile, Noel Gregorio, a Sangguniang Kabataan secretary of Brgy. Rotonda, detailed in his affidavit the various forms of torture and acts of violence he and his friend suffered at the hands of the police and Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team — including punching, hair pulling, slapping, and forced feeding of siling labuyo — in an elementary school in Brgy. San Jose, Koronadal City last April 16, for alleged violations of quarantine measures.

United Nations High Commission for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has raised alarm over “numerous reports from different regions that police and other security forces have been using excessive, and at times lethal, force to make people abide by lockdowns and curfews.” The High Commissioner also reminded governments that “[e]mergency powers should not be a weapon governments can wield to quash dissent, control the population, and even perpetuate their time in power,” and that “[c]ertain rights, including the right to life, the prohibition against torture and other ill-treatment, and the right not to be arbitrarily detained continue to apply in all circumstances.”

OFW Elanel Ordidor is also currently being threatened to be deported from Taiwan by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in the said country for cyber libel after she allegedly posted “nasty and malevolent materials against President Duterte on Facebook intended to cause hatred amidst the global health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, rejected DOLE’s threats and asserted that foreign workers in their country and their rights and interests are “protected by relevant laws and regulations, including freedom of speech” and that they “should be respected by governments of all countries.”

Palabay averred that “it is utterly absurd and shameful that a foreign government seems to be interested in upholding and protecting the civil liberties and human rights of a Filipina migrant worker much more than the Philippine government itself, which is more preoccupied with conducting mass arrests of quarantine violators back home or with exploiting and abusing its emergency powers to threaten and harass critics and activists conducting humanitarian operations as well as to facilitate more human rights violations.”

She continued that “the Duterte regime is using its emergency powers to clamp down on free speech and dissent while also ironically invoking free speech to defend propaganda from the Chinese embassy. It is supposedly strict in imposing discipline, but it is blatantly giving a pass to its allies and lapdogs such as Mocha Uson, who breached quarantine protocols in conducting a mass gathering in Lian, Batangas last April 26, as well as Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Felimon Santos Jr., who had the audacity to write a letter to Chinese ambassador Huang Xilian to request boxes of medicine from China for his close friends — medicine which is not even approved by our Food and Drug Administration,” she continued.

“This double standard of justice is a glaring display of the interests being served by the Duterte regime. Free speech for this fascist regime is only applicable if exercised for bootlicking the president and his allies. Compassion is only for those that serve the fascist madman’s bidding. The Filipino people are not blind to these injustices. The regime can continue on with this militarist response and its double standards, but the people will eventually reach a tipping point — and then there will be no other way for this regime but to go down,” the Karapatan official ended.