New year marked with rights violations under Marcos Jr. – Karapatan

“Amidst Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s consecutive trips abroad, claims of an ‘internal cleansing’ in the Philippine National Police and reports of an alleged destabilization plot within the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the State’s attacks against activists, progressives and communities continue unabated,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, as the group sounded the alarm on reports of human rights violations into the first two weeks of 2023.

Into the first two weeks of 2023, Karapatan has received reports of the killing of a peasant in a faked encounter in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, the disappearance of two labor rights advocates in Cebu, and the harassment of Tumandok indigenous people in Capiz province.

Karapatan Negros reported that on January 10, 2023, peasant Jose Gonzalez, 49, was killed by elements of the 94th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City. The military claimed Gonzalez was killed in an encounter with members of the New People’s Army, but reports said no encounter took at the time of Gonzalez’s death.

On Saturday, January 14, 2023, Karapatan Central Visayas issued an urgent alert that labor rights advocates Dyan Gumanao and Arnold Dahoya have stopped all communication with family, friends and co-workers since January 10, the day they were expected to return to Cebu after spending the holidays with their family.

The last message from Gumanao was a text message on January 10 at 8:10 AM, where she told her brother that their ship has docked in Cebu but they haven’t disembarked yet. They came from Gumanao’s hometown in Mindanao, where they also asked for the family’s blessing to get married in May this year.

Gumanao, 28, is a Special Support Services Coordinator of Community Empowerment Resource Network (CERNET), and a coordinator of Alliance of Concerned Teachers in Cebu. Dahoya, 27, is an artist and a staff member of the Visayas Human Development Agency (VIHDA), and also a volunteer for the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) in Cebu.

Since 2020, Gumanao and Dahoya have reported of experiencing heightened surveillance from suspected state forces, including an incident on January 2021 where they were tailed by non-uniformed state forces until they were able to lose them by going to a public place.

“We seriously believe that the series of surveillance against Gumanao and Dayoha are part of an orchestrated move by state security forces, making them clear targets of attacks. We demand that whatever unit of the military or police that has Gumanao and Dayoha in their custody surface them immediately. We also ask the Commission on Human Rights to immediately extend assistance to their family and colleagues in searching for their whereabouts,” Palabay said.

Meanwhile, in Panay, Karapatan Panay has received reports that about 300 of combined military and police forces are currently conducting operations in the Tumandok communities in Tapaz, Capiz. They are reportedly going from house to house in the community, that is causing fear and anxiety in the community.

The heightened deployment of state security forces is purportedly to clear the way for the drilling operations for the Pan-ay mega dam project, which is consistently opposed by the Tumandok indigenous people in the town.

It has been two years since the death of nine Tumandok leaders who were killed during joint police and military operations on December 30, 2020.

“The Tumandok people in Tapaz, Capiz have yet to attain justice for the slain members of their community, and now they are terrorized again by the state security forces. The current administration is obviously bound to perpetuate impunity, as it continues with their business of militarization in communities with organized and opposition to anti-people projects,” said Palabay.

Aside from constant surveillance, threats and harassment, Palabay said that state security forces have heightened up targetting known activists and critics of the current administration, as in the case of CARMMA convenor and spokesperson Bonifacio Ilagan.

Ilagan, also a martial law survivor and playwright, received a death threat on January 2 through a sinister phone call from a cellular phone number 09655976472. The man, who claimed to be a “kumander” of a unit supposedly tasked to “wipe out communists,” told him to desist from his activities as he and his unit were just waiting for the “final order from the higher-ups” and would surely get Ilagan.

Karapatan called for indignation on this spate of incidents, and appealed for vigilance on what they now see as a “continuum of human rights violations under an administration that has retained its militarist character.”

“The Marcos Jr. administration has summoned all the attack dogs, the butchers and implementers of repression policies, from the previous administrations under its reign. This is by all means a signal of continuing attacks on the people. We should not allow more activists, rights defenders, and communities to add up to the number of violation victims, and keep vigil of these violations in the new year,” said Palabay. #