Karapatan asserts call to prosecute Duterte for crimes against the Filipino people in his last SONA

Unfazed by strong rains and looming threats of dispersals, human rights alliance Karapatan joined thousands today to call for an end to President Rodrigo Duterte’s “fascist rule and to prosecute him for his crimes against the Filipino people” as various groups and formations marched along Commonwealth Avenue and gathered in various parts of the country for mass protests in time for Duterte’s sixth and last State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Asserting that the right to peaceably assemble remains in effect even amid quarantine restrictions against the COVID-19 pandemic, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay asserted that “it is actually Duterte’s shameless fascist attacks against the people even in the middle of a pandemic that are forcing more and more to stand against his tyrannical rule and to brave these threats to march with us here today with the call #DuterteWakasan.”

“In the past five years under Duterte, there is clearly no justice and peace — only State terror and criminal negligence of people’s welfare. None of his so-called achievements, which he will predictably tout today in his SONA, can overshadow the thousands killed in his murderous policies and programs, and how these atrocities continue with impunity. This is Duterte’s only legacy: a full-blown human rights crisis and democratic backsliding in the Philippines,” Palabay continued.

In today’s protest, Karapatan paraded the “Rodrigo Maligno” mascot chained by the names of the victims of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration. The Karapatan official said that the it “symbolizes the monstrosity that is Duterte and our call to prosecute him for his crimes, and far from the monstrous appearance of ‘Rodrigo Maligno,’ Duterte is actually a coward who is now scrambling for insidious ways to escape accountability, such as the International Criminal Court’s investigation.”

On top of the thousands killed in the sham and bloody war on drugs, Karapatan has documented 414 victims of extrajudicial killings as of June 2021 in line with the government’s counterinsurgency campaigns and operations of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The human rights watchdog also recorded 497 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 1,126 victims of illegal arrests and detention, and 223 victims of torture.

713 political prisoners are also languishing in overcrowded jails throughout the country on trumped-up charges, with 487 arrested under the Duterte administration — among them human rights defenders, trade unionists, peace advocates, peasant leaders, urban poor community organizers, church workers, and indigenous peoples. 94 are suffering from debilitating illnesses and 64 are elderly; 10 political prisoners have already died in detention under this administration. 130 political prisoners are women.

Palabay averred that, with the NTF-ELCAC and the Anti-Terrorism Act in place, “Duterte has put in place a well-oiled machinery of State violence and repression, especially in time for the approaching elections in 2022. Their goal is clear: Duterte wants to run as vice president, which he claims will grant him immunity, and to ensure the victory of his anointed successor to guarantee the continuity of his murderous programs and his bloody legacy of impunity — in short, to cement his de facto martial law.”

“As various democratic forces come together today, we say ‘no more!’ to a Duterte kind of governance. We will not let him get away with mass murder and State repression, and we vow to not let his successor claim victory in the coming elections. To this end, we also urgently assert that we cannot let another year of Duterte and his kill-kill-kill government continue. We must end Duterte’s reign of terror now once and for all and hold him to account for his crimes against the Filipino people,” she concluded.