Photo by Jesse Bustos/Philippine Star
Photo by Jesse Bustos/Philippine Star
Since 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte has turned the entire country into a killing field, his murderous regime leaving thousands of dead bodies left and right. The sham and bloody war on drugs has claimed 6,215 lives as of October 2021 alone according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, yet the Department of Justice has only reviewed 52 cases — and thousands more murdered in vigilante-style killings remain unaccounted for.
Duterte’s brutal war on dissent through counterinsurgency campaigns has also killed 424 lives as of November 2021, among them 216 human rights defenders. Even amid the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the killings and the systematic violations of people’s rights have only continued with brazen impunity, with orders coming from Duterte himself as he explicitly reiterated his “kill-kill-kill” policy during his last State of the Nation Address.
Duterte plunged the country into a deadly human rights crisis — facilitating a massive democratic backsliding and the revival of the worst horrors of Marcosian martial rule with his open attacks on journalists and press freedom, shameless corruption and criminal neglect of people’s welfare, and the militarization of the civilian bureaucracy through the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
His whole-of-nation campaign of State repression has led to the arrests of hundreds of human rights defenders, activists, political dissenters, and government critics he has tagged as “communists” and “terrorists.” Out of 712 political prisoners, 489 of them were arrested under Duterte’s tyrannical rule alone through Gestapoesque raids, search warrant factories, planted evidence, and trumped-up charges. Some of them have died in detention due to illnesses without even seeing justice.
With Duterte’s terror law in place following the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold its draconian provisions, we can only expect more of these atrocities to worsen as Duterte approaches his last months in power. After all, his days in Malacañang are already numbered: the people’s resistance and struggle for justice and accountability are now catching up to him, from the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into his crimes against humanity and the other string of cases waiting for him once his term ends next year.
Duterte is now desperately clinging to power, unleashing his cabal of red-taggers and notorious war criminals from the NTF-ELCAC to cement his de facto martial law and crush anyone who stands in the way of his despotic delusions. He has also secured the “Terror Team” with Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s tandem with his daughter Sara in the 2022 national elections — with both of them promising the continuity of the same murderous programs and policies and allowing Duterte to evade accountability from the ICC.
The Filipino people have suffered six years of State terror, violence, and repression. We cannot let another six years of the same deadly campaigns to continue, especially under the rule of the children of two dictators.
Today, as we mark the last International Human Rights Day under Duterte’s bloody reign of terror, Karapatan stands together with various democratic forces in the country and most especially with the victims of human rights violations and their families in asserting our demands for justice. We say “enough!” and Duterte must be made to pay for his crimes against the Filipino people.
As the 2022 elections draw near, we must frustrate all efforts for a Marcos restoration and Duterte extension represented by this Marcos-Duterte tandem and their machinery of lies and historical distortions oiled by the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth. We join all freedom-loving Filipinos in saying “never again!” to the Marcoses and the Dutertes, and the Marcoses must be made to return what they have stolen from the nation’s coffers.
Today, we are called not only to vote for candidates and leaders that would uphold our rights: we are called as a people to stand for our hard-won rights and freedom, and to resist tyranny and dictatorship.
We are called to demand that the drug war be scrapped in favor of comprehensive, health-centered, and rights-based responses to address drug addiction; that the NTF-ELCAC must be abolished along with junking of Duterte’s terror law to pave the way for resumption of peace talks, the just and humanitarian release of all political prisoners, comprehensive socio-economic and political reforms that address the roots of the decades-long armed conflict, and the attainment of just and lasting peace in the country.
Katarungan, Kalayaan, Katotohanan, Kapayapaan, and Karapatan — these are our aspirations this International Human Rights Day, in the 2022 elections, and beyond. However, our true power in attaining them lies in our collective action and solidarity as a people to fight for a just and humane society. There is hope in our struggle, and justice will be ours.
Karapatan Secretary General