Tokhang-style campaign vs “left-leaning” personalities in CAR a State-sanctioned incitement of EJK — Karapatan

The resolution recently-issued by the Cordillera Administrative Region’s Regional Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee (RLECC-CAR) “enjoining” law enforcement agencies and local government units to employ Oplan Tokhang against “left-leaning” personalities in the government, media and other entities is a “State-sanctioned incitement of extrajudicial killings against activists, human rights defenders, and government critics which sets a dangerous precedent amid the government’s massive red-tagging campaign,” human rights watchdog Karapatan said.

“Will we see more activists killed under the same ‘nanlaban’ narrative, with guns and other firearms planted near their corpses to justify their gruesome murders at the hands of State forces? Many of our colleagues were killed or arrested in such manner, and it makes us shudder to think that this resolution to conduct ‘tokhang’ against ‘left-leaning’ personalities is a clear State policy declaring open season for the killings of activists. Those who signed the said resolution should be ashamed of themselves, and any killing, threat or arrest of individuals tagged as sympathetic to the Left is on their list of crimes,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

Palabay raised alarm on the escalating threats of violence against activists in the region with the RLECC-CAR’s resolution, particularly with Police Regional Office Cordillera Regional Director Brigadier General R’win Pagkalinawan’s reported order for police snipers to shoot “communist organizers” April last year as well as his shoot-to-kill order against Cordillera Peoples Alliance Chairman Windel Bolinget “if nanlaban,” or if Bolinget should fight back and resist arrest. Pagkalinawan is also the chairperson of the RLECC-CAR.

She continued that “it is public knowledge that the drug war through Oplan Tokhang and Oplan Double Barrel has resulted in the deaths of thousands. Tokhang operations were not conducted through some innocuous ‘visiting/knocking’ on residences and ‘pleas’ or some dissuasive acts. Persons included in drug ‘watch lists’ or those tagged as ‘drug suspects’ have been gunned down — upon the orders of no less than President Rodrigo Duterte himself to ‘shoot them dead’ — because they supposedly fought back.”

“Investigations, however, have proven the ‘nanlaban’ narrative to be a sham with policemen involved in extrajudicial killings and planting of evidence to peddle this narrative. These operations have been bloody, and this is the reason why there is a complaint at the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity against President Duterte. This regional committee did not care to pretend to make their campaign look less notorious,” the Karapatan official averred.

Palabay also deplored another resolution by the regional committee that requires “cause-oriented groups” to secure clearance from the concerned local government unit with concurrence of Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in the area in conducting assemblies or mass protests.

While the said resolution “seems to recognize the right of the people to assemble, and petition the government for redress of grievances,” she asserted that “it outrightly clamps down on that basic right each time one needs to secure a permit with the concurrence of State security forces. By claiming that rallies and assemblies are ‘exploited’ by legal organizations to agitate the people, they are only proving that the Duterte government is being increasingly intolerant of dissent and is further restricting civic spaces.”

“We condemn these resolutions as they directly violate the people’s right to due process, to freedom of association, against illegal search, and yes, the right to life. The heads of the government agencies in the region who signed them should be ashamed of themselves. Unless they want to be enablers and implementers of this looming bloody campaign, we challenge concerned agencies who signed the resolution to pull out their signatures from this resolution and condemn what is clearly a State policy inciting extrajudicial killings and mass murder,” the Karapatan official ended.