MANILA, Philippines — The Communist Party of the Philippines called President Rodrigo Duterte “the lowest of the low” for threatening to bomb lumad schools, which human rights activists reminded him would, if carried out, be a violation of international humanitarian law and, thus, a war crime.
“You are a madman with bombs. You are a bully. An arrogant street thug intoxicated with power. But you only pick on the weak, the small, and the oppressed,” the CPP information bureau said Tuesday, a day after Duterte, in a press conference following his second state of the nation address, accused the tribal schools of “teaching subversion, communism …”
“Sabihin ko diyan sa mga lumad ngayon, ‘Umalis kayo d’yan. Bobombahan ko ‘yan. Isali ko ‘yang mga istraktura n’yo [I will tell the lumad now, ‘Get away from there. I will bomb those schools. I will include your structures]’,” Duterte said. “I will use the Armed Forces, the Philippine Air Force. Talagang bobombahan ko ‘yang lahat ng mga ano niyo (I will really bomb all your schools) because you’re operating illegally and you’re teaching the children to rebel against government.”
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay lambasted Duterte for his remarks, saying in a statement: “Bullying lumad kids and communities is one thing — his state forces get away with it every time — but bombing their schools and communities is a war crime, one of the gravest violations under international humanitarian law.”
“Openly threatening to bomb lumad schools is as monstrous as it can get. First you distorted human rights, now you taunt international humanitarian law. Stop the madness already,” Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said in a separate statement
In 2015, thousands of lumad fled their homes in Surigao del Sur when Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development executive director Emerito Samarca and tribal leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo were murdered by military-backed militia.
The Department of Education condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the murders but, to date, none of the killers has been arrested and prosecuted.
The Save Our Schools Network says there have been at least 83 attacks on 89 lumad schools since July last year, ranging from threats against students and teachers, the occupation of the schools and other civilian structures by soldiers, to extrajudicial killings and at least one case of enforced disappearance.
“Duterte’s mad obsession with his war on drugs, insisting in his SONA that this will not stop, is going beyond absurd, at the expense of people’s rights, especially that of the poor,” Palabay said. “Indeed, only a privileged bully can have no qualms about killing the poor as collateral damage, while letting the big fishes in the illegal drug trade, including perhaps many of his policemen and military, off the hook.”
The CPP also labeled Duterte “a weakling when faced with the powerful,” such as mining companies, China, and the United States. It noted that he had become silent after China’s loans to the Philippines, accusing him of surrendering the country’s rights.
“Not a whimper from you while China transformed the Spratly islands into their military fortress,” the CPP said.
As for the U.S., it said Duterte had “zero pride” when he allegedly “allowed the American military officials to direct the operations in Marawi to bounty-hunt for (Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon) Hapilon and waste the lives of soldiers.'”
The CPP also said Duterte had “licked the boots of the U.S. military” for providing rifles and jetfighters as it demanded he end the “death and destruction” that had come to the country.
Meanwhile, Palabay asked: “Has the quality of lives of poor Filipinos improved in the past year?”