Terror-tagging, protest bans ahead of SONA are acts of cowardice from a fascist regime fearing mass resistance

The proliferation of terror-tagging posters and the issuance of protest bans days leading up to President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) are “blatant acts of cowardice from a fascist and tyrannical regime trembling in fear in the face of the people’s mass resistance,” human rights alliance Karapatan stated. Banning protests under the guise of implementing quarantine measures and ramping up the government’s “rabid terrorist-tagging” of activists, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said, are “pathetic and desperate attempts to sow fear and deter people from joining the various mass actions all throughout the country on Monday.”

“It’s not surprising that this inutile regime is using protests as convenient scapegoats for the ballooning number of COVID-19 cases to justify the banning of protests for SONA when in fact it has been the government’s lack of planning and continuing neglect of public health, basic social services, and people’s rights and welfare that has caused the pandemic to spread — all while vilifying activists as ‘terrorist recruiters.’ The Duterte regime is shameless in using quarantine measures to crack down on dissent but we will not be deterred: we will join thousands in the streets on Monday, we will observe proper health protocols, and we will ring the people’s demands louder than ever,” Palabay averred.

Last Thursday, July 23, posters tagging various progressive leaders and human rights defenders in the Southern Mindanao region, including Karapatan National Council member Jay Apiag, as wanted “terrorist recruiters” were spotted in several streets in Davao City. Similar posters red-tagging human rights groups and civil society organizations have also been spotted in several areas in Quezon City. In an advisory also dated Thursday, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) reminded local government units to strictly comply with the July 21 Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Resolution No. 57 on the prohibition of mass gatherings. The Quezon City government has issued an advisory yesterday, July 24, on the non-processing and revocation of permits for public assemblies in compliance with the IATF resolution.

The Karapatan official said that “the issuances of these resolutions and advisories mere days before the SONA already show their true intent of threatening and intimidating those who will join the protest with arrests and dispersals. We would like to remind the DILG and the Philippine National Police that the IATF resolutions and guidelines are not laws; they are also not higher than the Constitution and they can’t be used to restrict the peaceful exercise of basic constitutional rights and civil liberties, including the right to freedom of assembly. We strongly urge local government units throughout the country to assert and uphold people’s rights than succumb to the whims of a wannabe dictator and his militarist minions like Eduardo Año.”

“Tagging dissenters and activists as ‘terrorists’ or ‘pasaway’ are all mere tactics to deflect from the fact that the Duterte regime is now facing the strongest, broadest, and most unified resistance to his fascist rule, which he will parade in his fifth SONA. Unlike cowards like him, we will not be cowed, and his intensified repression and violation of people’s rights from his militarist lockdown, the closure of ABS-CBN, and the passage of the draconian Anti-Terrorism Act are only emboldening more people to speak up, to stand and fight back against his tyrannical delusions. On Monday, we will take to the streets to assert our rights and to expose the true state of the nation — a nation defying State terrorism and fascism,” she ended.