MANILA, Philippines – Human rights, faith-based, and indigenous groups were among the sectors that came together on Monday, National Heroes’ Day, to launch the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT), in an effort to end the culture of impunity and fear bred by President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, which has led to thousands of killings and the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao.
The gathering at the Maryhill School of Theology in Quezon City was marked by the testimony of “Marian,” whose three loved ones allegedly became victims of extrajudicial killing and violence.
“Hindi po dapat pinapatay ang mga katulad namin [They shouldn’t be killing people like us],” Marian said.
“Bakit ganito ang nangyayari sa amin [Why is this happening to us]?” she added.
Marian’s father was killed after supposedly fighting back at the police. Her sibling was picked up by motorcycle-riding persons and was later on found dead with his remains alongside his father’s body in a funeral parlor.
Weeks later, unidentified gunmen attempted but failed to kill Marian’s husband.
She and her husband then went into hiding along with other families of victims of extrajudicial killings. They received help from the Catholic Church and now make both ends meet by selling coffee and turmeric.
Like Marian’s kin, a member of the PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao, was also a victim of extrajudicial killing, according to the group’s leader Jong Monzon.
Monzon said the PASAKA member was killed Sunday night, August 27, and was the 44th member of the indigenous peoples group who was killed in the region since the start of the Duterte administration. The other fatalities were teachers who were killed in front of their students, parents, and Lumad leaders.
Human rights violations among Lumad members are likewise rampant, according to Monzon, as warrants of arrest were being issued against teachers in their indigenous schools. One former Lumad student was also abducted.
Monzon is protesting the entry of the military into their communities, as well as the violence wrought by paramilitary groups that included Lumad members, who had been armed by the military in alleged connivance with mining entities who want to encroach on ancestral domains.
Also, during the launching of MAT, filmmaker Kiri Dalena showed a video of the suffering and struggle of Muslim minors, who fled their homes in Marawi amid the fighting between the Maute terrorist group and government forces.
Marawi evacuees belonging to the group Tindeg Ranao also urged the government to stop aerial assaults in the Lanao del Sur capital as the bombings had resulted in the destruction of homes and livelihoods of residents.
The evacuees were also afraid of the soldiers who might accuse them of being aligned with the terrorists because they were wearing hijabs, or veils traditionally worn by Muslim women.
They also railed against the miserable conditions in evacuation centers, where children often get ill and and sick people die due to insufficient government assistance.
MAT convenors are planning to hold a rally at the Luneta Park in Manila on September 21 — the anniversary of former President Ferdinand Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law.
They are also planning to hold educational activities, forums, and mass actions and form quick reaction teams that will provide legal assistance to families of the victims of extrajudicial killings and conduct fact-finding and humanitarian missions.
Among those who participated in the launching are former St. Scholastica’s College president Sr. Mary John Mananzan; Commission on Human Rights Chairman Chito Gascon; former congressmen Lorenzo “Erin” Reyes Tañada III and Neri Javier Colmenares; Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate; Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio, University of the Philippines Diliman Chancellor Michael Tan, and activist and actress Mae Paner also known as Juana Change.