MANILA, Philippines — Karapatan on Monday countered incoming presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s claim that the chief executive isn’t a human rights violator.
The human rights group said President Rodrigo Duterte had allegedly been “peddling fascist policies that continue the killing, illegal arrests, and harassment directed against human rights workers.”
In a recent interview with radio station DWIZ, Roque said he didn’t believe in the allegations that Duterte is a human rights violator.
“Well, kasi po hindi ako naniniwala na human rights violator s’ya,” Roque replied after he was asked during the radio interview on how he would reconcile being a human rights lawyer and advocate and being the spokesperson of the President, who was being perceived as a human rights violator.
He added that Duterte’s policy was clear when 17-year-old Grade 11 student Kian Loyd delos Santos was killed during an August 16 police operation in Caloocan City.
“Ang sabi niya, ang mga pulis kapag legal ang kanilang engagement sagot ko sila, pero kapag illegal ang engagement nila at walang…nanlaban and yet pumatay sila, and that is murder ‘no,” said Roque.
[What the President said is when the police’s engagement is legal, I’ll answer for them, but when it’s illegal and the suspect doesn’t fight back and yet they get killed, then it’s murder.]
But Karaparatan countered the claim of Roque and other “mouthpieces” of Malacañang.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said the President had allegedly been violating people’s rights “through state policies such as the counterinsurgency program called Oplan Kapayapaan and the war on drugs.”
“(H)e sanctions state security forces with the license to kill, ensuring they have the resources, funds, and protection to go forward with their killing spree,” said Palabay.
“By allowing his counterinsurgency program to continuously wreck havoc among the ranks of rights defenders, Duterte should ultimately be held responsible for these ongoing and intensifying attacks,” she added.
Karapatan said among the alleged victims of these policies was 49-year-old Edwin Pura, a paralegal staffer of National Union of People’s Lawyers’ second vice president Atty. Ron Ely Espinosa. Pura was shot dead in Gubat, Sorsogon by two armed men last Oct. 25.
Pura was a former Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and transport group leader in Sorsogon province. According to initial reports, Pura’s companion, Willy Broño, was also shot dead, while another lady victim identified as Grace Merilo was rushed to the hospital.
Atty. Espinosa himself recently survived a failed attempt on his life sometime in the last week of August 2017, according to Karapatan.
The group also cited the case of peasant leader Eugene Antonio, whose house in Muddit, Dolores, Abra, was allegedly raided by joint forces of the Philippine Army’s 24th Infantry Battalion and 7th Infantry Division last Oct. 27.
“They served a search warrant for weapons that Antonio allegedly possessed; the search yielded nothing. Instead, soldiers and police seized documents of the Mudiit People’s Organization, a local group of which Antonio is an officer. Antonio, also a pastor, has received death threats and has been the subject of red-tagging after the 24th IB accused him of being an NPA (New People’s Army) supporter,” Palabay said.
On the same day in Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur, Julito Otacan, a field worker of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, along with five other Banwaon community members, was arrested allegedly by elements of the 26th IB.
Otacan and his companions, Alejandro Barluado, Jonas Acosta, Noli Tahudan, Marlon Talatayod, and Joel Trasona, were taken to the Police Station in Rubako, San Luis, Agusan del Sur after soldiers allegedly found grenades, firearms, and other equipment in their houses.
The six arrested were are all members of the Banwaon Peoples’ Organization, Tagdumahan, a group consistently targeted because of their struggles and campaigns against logging and mining concessions infringing on the Banwaon’s ancestral domain, according to Karapatan.
A day later, on October 28, Cordillera People’s Alliance chairperson Windel Bolinget and vice-chairperson Xavier Akin, along with staffers of the Center for Development Programs (CDP) were flagged down allegedly by elements of the Philippine National police twice while on their way to Baguio.
The first incident took place in Tirad Pass while the group was traversing the Santiago-Quirino road and the second instance in Lidlida, Ilocos Sur.
“They were held without charges, with the police failing to provide any valid explanation for detaining the group. Bolinget, Akin, and CDP staff were eventually allowed to pass an hour after they were accosted,” Palabay said.
“The common thread that ties these attacks is the continued implementation of the Duterte regime’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, which explicitly and systematically legitimizes violations against human rights defenders using the catch-all rhetoric of them being ‘enemies of the State’,” said Palabay.
“State security forces, aptly called mercenaries, have become ruthless instruments in repressing and violating people’s rights. We demand an end to these attacks against human rights defenders, along with the call to hold the perpetrators responsible,” she said.
We likewise call for the Duterte regime to end all fascist policies that have facilitated attacks against the Filipino people,” added the Kaparatan secretary-general.