"No justice, no peace:" Five years of State terror under Duterte

This input was delivered by Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay in the webinar “No Justice, No Peace: 5 Years of State Terror Under Duterte” earlier today, July 21, 2021. You can watch the webinar on Facebook through this link.

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Walang hustisya, walang kapayapaan, terorismo ng estado - ito ang pinaka-angkop na kumakatawan sa karanasan ng mamamayang Pilipino sa limang taon ng panunungkulan ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte sa kanyang nakaumang na pagtatatag ng pasistang diktadurya sa bansa, laluna at pinalulutang ang Duterte-Duterte tandem sa darating na 2022 na eleksyon.

Gera kontra mahirap ang pangkalahatang layunin at epekto ng gera kontra droga ni Duterte, na nagresulta sa libong pinaslang na kalakhan ay mahihirap nating mga kababayan. Palpak ito sa pagpapatigil sa illegal drug trade sa bansa, dahil bukod sa pananatili ng mga sindikato at kartel, nagpapatuloy ang pagkasangkot ng mga nasa gobyerno sa raket na ito. Hindi itinuturing na problemang medikal at panlipunan ang usapin ng iligal na droga at nagsilbi ang drug war para ipagyabang at iwasiwas ng Pangulo ang kanyang kapangyarihan at maghasik ng takot sa mamamayan.

The total lives claimed by the regime’s war is still not certain even today, but the government’s own data range from 6,117 individuals[1] to 20,000 individuals[2] killed. Lists of so-called drug suspects are drawn up arbitrarily, warrants are not required during police operations particularly in buy-bust operations, while so-called “visitations” or tokhang became pretexts to summary executions.

In government documents, reports and in the various statements and pronouncements of Pres. Duterte, the policy is clear – to “neutralize” drug suspects. Various investigative reports have revealed an incentive system, rewarding police who executed suspects with cash payments. While the police claim that those killed in anti-drug operations were resisting – known as the “nanlaban” (fought back) narrative – evidence indicates that unarmed victims have been executed either in their home, on the street or after being abducted, with weapons or drugs likely planted after. Save for one case – that of Kian delos Santos’ case, there have been no known conviction of police perpetrators and there is continuing lack of redress in an overwhelming majority of cases. These tactics demonstrate the police’s power and sowed fear in the communities as a tool of political control. In addition, the revival of the death penalty by amending drug control laws has a similar bent emphasizing not only capital punishment even for petty drug users or peddlers by presumption of guilt on each and every accused.

This war against the poor through the drug war is intrinsically related to yet another form of war against the poor in the administration’s war against dissent as expressed through its counter-insurgency campaign and attacks against the opposition and the press.

Through Oplans Kapayapaan and Kapanatagan and termination of the peacetalks, through Presidential Proclamations 360 and 374, alongside Executive Order NO. 70, and through the martial law declaration in Mindanao, government’s militarist and bloody campaigns resulting in killings, illegal or arbitrary arrests, forcible evacuations and militarization of rural communities, and other gross human rights violations have pervaded, even before the enactment of the terror law.

Ang problema sa mga polisiyang ito at sa pangkalahatang pagugubyerno ng kasalukuyang administrasyon ay ganito - legitimate dissent and yes, even rebellion or the struggles for national liberation, are being obfuscated and wrongly equated to terrorism; the armed conflict and its roots are deliberately reduced not as a result of historical, socio-economic and political conditions but as mere “violent” acts; and the employment of a militarist approach combined with mass deception aimed at “neutralizing” their perceived enemies, without addressing the socio-economic and political roots of the armed struggle.

As a result, there has been no let-up and in fact, there is increased state repression of dissenters, including extrajudicial killings of peasants, indigenous peoples, workers and rights defenders even during the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, Karapatan has documented 414 victims of extrajudicial killings and 497 victims of frustrated killings. The persistent use of search warrants to conduct police and military raids on the homes and offices of progressive leaders and activists marked by summary executions and the planting of evidence was no longer just “systematic:” it has emerged as a clear pattern — an insidious modus operandi — to give legal cover to the Duterte government’s crackdown on dissent under the guise of counterinsurgency.

The use of search warrants to plant evidence and a likewise serial trend of filing of criminal cases against activists without their knowledge, even in far off places, has also led to arbitrary arrests and detention. To date, there are at least 713 political prisoners, 487 of them arrested under Duterte; eleven of them are NDFP peace consultants and staff; 94 of them are sick, including those with terminal illnesses; and 130 are women.

Through the NTF-ELCAC’s whole-of-nation approach, virtually all government resources, machinery, platforms are now being used for its red-tagging campaign to demonize activists and progressive organizations — violating the constitutional right to due process and presumption of innocence. Such malicious accusations have become even more dangerous with the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act, and the new law has emboldened the NTF-ELCAC and State security institutions to mobilize all forms of media, including social media, and their proxies, assets or supporters to propagate disinformation and deliberate falsehoods by red-tagging activists, human rights defenders, government critics, and their organizations even in official government proceedings, such as the oral arguments on the petitions against the Anti-Terrorism Act before the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, militarization of communities, profiling of leaders and members of peasant and indigenous people’s organizations, forced or fake surrenders of civilians to create a false perception of the government winning the war against the communists and to line up pockets of State forces, and numerous stark violations of international humanitarian law such as bombings of communities, closing of alternative schools for indigenous youth, no quarters given and desecration of remains of hors de combat have occurred.

While violations have been willfully committed by State forces acting on orders and pronouncements from their Commander In Chief and generals, there has been an abject failure of redress mechanisms making statements of government officials on the “robust and working justice system in the Philippines” a big joke. Aside from the fact that there have been virtually nil convictions of HR violations perpetrators, mas mabagal pa sa pagong ang usad ng mga kasong isinampa laban sa mga redtaggers at mamamatay tao sa gobyerno. Ang immunity ni Duterte from prosecution mismo ay isang malaking balakid sa accountability.

In the five years of Duterte, there has been no peace, and no justice, at habang may Duterte sa Malacanang, hindi magkakaroon ng kapayapaan at hustisya ang mamamayan. Indeed, it is high time that we say no more to this type of governance. It is high time for Duterte’s rule to end. It is high time that we make him accountable for the crimes he and his minions have committed to the Filipino people. Magandang araw po sa ating lahat.