No letup in massacre of the poor under Duterte with killing of Sarangani barangay captain

The Duterte administration is continuing its brutal massacre of the poor in its bloody war on drugs, human rights watchdog Karapatan said, as the group decried the killing of barangay captain Diony Seromines in Brgy. Kawas, Alabel, Sarangani after he allegedly refused to sign a paper as a witness in a drug buy-bust operation.

“Even in the middle of a pandemic, there is no letup in inhumane killings and police violence under the Duterte regime’s murderous drug war. The death of Seromines at the hands of the police is only the latest in a series of deplorable attacks on the poor. Already bearing the brunt of the government’s incompetence in responding to the pandemic and its anti-people policies, the poor are still facing threats to their lives from the State. This has to stop,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay urged.

On the evening of May 29, around 8 p.m., elements of the Regional Police Drug Enforcement Unit headed by Police Lieutenant Colonel Geovani Ladero accompanied by Sarangani Provincial Police and Alabel Municipal Police engaged in an entrapment operation at Brgy. Kawas targeting a certain Salvador Olog, a barangay tanod who was killed by authorities in the operation. Philippine National Police Chief Archie Gamboa had earlier stated that “even with the ongoing health crisis, police anti-illegal drugs operations will continue without let-up and will be unrelenting as ever.”

Seromines had begged on authorities to arrest Olog instead and face due process in a plea to tackle the drug problem in Brgy. Kawas without violence. After Olog was gunned down, Seromines was called by the police to be in the entrapment area to sign a paper as a witness to the operation but he refused to sign it and was also killed as a result.

The Karapatan officer said that “the barangay captain wanted to sincerely act on his duty to curb the drug menace in his community without deaths and bloodshed. In standing up for the rights of the residents of Brgy. Kawas and for refusing to be complicit in covering up the police’s inhumane and merciless operation, he paid for his life. He was killed by the police to silence him in the face of blatant injustice.”

The barangay captain was a known leader who defended the people’s right to housing and he was also at the frontlines of resisting demolitions of urban poor settlements in Brgy. Kawas and in various communities. During his stint as village chief, there were no records of any form of crime or corruption. His killing comes at the heels of the murder of Kadamay Secretary General Carlito Badion, another staunch defender of the rights and welfare of the urban poor and the homeless.

“For the poor, there are only three options for them to die under the anti-poor Duterte regime: to die of sickness, to die of hunger, or to die of bullets and gunshots in their bodies. Thousands of poor bodies have been claimed by the administration’s drug war that has simply failed to actually address the drug problem and its root causes. The regime’s violent and militarist policies have only unleashed brutal forms of human rights violations and police violence in poor communities, wreaking havoc on innocent lives that the regime has simply brushed off as ‘collateral damage.’ We grieve together with the families of Seromines as we call for justice and an end to the killings,” she ended.