Karapatan to presidential, VP candidates in 2022 elections: Stop the killings, hold Duterte and all perpetrators accountable!

In a symbolic activity at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on December 8, two days before the International Human Rights Day, human rights group Karapatan called on presidential and vice-presidential candidates in the upcoming 2022 elections to put a stop to extrajudicial killings in the counterinsurgency and drug war campaigns of the Duterte administration, as the group likewise demanded that President Rodrigo Duterte and all perpetrators of such human rights violations be held accountable for these crimes.

Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor noted that, with the position of presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigations on the killings in the drug war, with Sara Duterte as his running mate, and with his dictator-father’s own record of human rights violations, “we can only expect a continuation, nay a most probable escalation, of State terror unleashed upon the people and a far worse state of impunity in the country with a Marcos restoration and a Duterte extension in 2022.”

“Under the dictatorship of Marcos Jr.’s father, the killings of activists, dissenters, and political opponents became a State policy — one which it justified by tagging its victims as ‘communists’ and ‘subversives.’ Duterte’s murderous regime revived the worst horrors of Marcosian martial rule with his kill-kill-kill policy against anyone who stands in the way of his tyrannical delusions, and the tandem of Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte only spells more dead bodies and the continuity of these same murderous campaigns and programs,” Clamor stated.

Furthermore, the Karapatan official averred that presidential candidate Isko Moreno’s recent statement offering President Duterte a slot in his senatorial slate “sounds like a promotion of Duterte’s bloody governance. While Moreno has claimed that there would be no extrajudicial killings in the anti-drug campaign and that the ICC can conduct investigations in the country if he gets elected as president, his clear and categorical rejection of Duterte’s brand of politics is non-existent. Even worse, he seems to be endorsing it.”

“What the Filipino people demand and what the victims and their families assert is a clear and unequivocal position for a policy against the killings and other human rights violations, and for leaders to stand for justice and accountability. We urge all candidates running for the presidential and vice-presidential post in the 2022 elections to join us in our clarion call: stop the killings in the Philippines now, and to put an end to the murderous campaigns that enable these killings,” he said.

Sowing the seeds of justice

As Karapatan and other human rights groups asserted these demands, they also gathered to honor those killed under the Duterte administration: “The seeds sown by those killed by the Duterte administration shall grow, blossom, and bear the fruits of justice. Through this action, we honor our slain comrades, activists, human rights defenders, as we gain inspiration from them to work for justice and defend people’s rights, especially the poor and marginalized,” Clamor continued.

Following the call “they tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds,” Karapatan together with the families and friends of the victims of extrajudicial killings from Hustisya and Rise Up for Life and for Rights brought potted plants during the symbolic activity at the CHR’s Liwasang Diokno Freedom Park. Each plant bore the name of their slain loved ones as well as other victims of killings and human rights violations to honor their memories and legacies, and to ring their continuing fight for justice.

As of November 2021, Karapatan has documented 424 victims of extrajudicial killings in line with the government’s counterinsurgency campaigns under the Duterte administration. Among those honored in the activity were Karapatan human rights workers Zara Alvarez and Elisa Badayos, Bayan Muna coordinator Jory Porquia, peace consultants Agaton Topacio and Eugenia Magpantay, victims of the Bloody Sunday raids, slain trade unionists, peasant organizers, and indigenous people, and victims of extrajudicial killings in the drug war.

“They were killed because the Duterte administration want their voices silenced for their work in documenting and exposing the regime’s atrocities and crimes against the Filipino people. This fascist and murderous regime wanted to sow fear and terror among the people and stop them in their struggle for land, jobs and livelihood, and for survival. We have witnessed gross and grave violations to these rights under a government that made killing a daily fare,” Clamor stated.

He further said that, like seeds and plants, the killings have become continuing testimonies that the struggle to defend people’s rights and for a just society should push on: “These plants will be a reminder that the struggle left by those who have been killed are the seeds of our call for justice. We embrace this important lesson that rights are to be fought for, and that justice is served not only in punishing perpetrators but calling a stop to State-sponsored killings in the country.”

The symbolic activity also follows the recent recommendation of the Department of Justice’s Administrative Order No. 35 task force on political killings to file murder charges against the policemen involved in the raids that killed Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Cavite coordinator and long-time labor leader Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion, one of the nine activists killed in the Bloody Sunday raids throughout the Southern Tagalog region last March 7.

“Let this symbolic action also be our clear message to those who have made thousands of our fellow Filipinos suffer from injustice, loss of lives, and callousness in power: the Filipino people will make Duterte and all his men pay and hold them accountable for his sham war on drugs, and bloody war on dissent. They will definitely reap what they sow. Punishment will come, and the people shall have justice,” the Karapatan official ended.