In the weeks since the deaths of peace advocate Randall Echanis and Negros-based activist Zara Alvarez, several human rights defenders and groups, and civilians have been the receiving end of numerous attacks.
Even with the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL), sometimes now known as just “Terror Law,” in place, crafted to supposedly put an end to such incidents, attacks have been reported in a matter of two weeks.
With its draconian measures in maintaining national security, such as wire-tapping and warrantless arrests, the ATL had been derided by critics for being a possible gateway for state agents to abuse their authority.
In an alert statement on Facebook, Karapatan-Negros said that this was a manifestation of who truly benefits from the ATL, noting how it is being weaponized to silence dissenters.
“This is clearly another work of the fascist state, the only one who stands to benefit from this continuous attacks against those who criticize its failures in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, that further exacerbates the degrading state of the nation,” the alliance said.
In a separate Facebook post, Anakbayan Cebu claimed that the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte was becoming increasingly desperate to silence critics who have been vocal of his “failed COVID-19 response.”
“The state’s continuous attacks against progressive individuals is a manifestation of the regime’s aggravating fascism. The Duterte regime is desperate to silence the people after his COVID-19 response has failed miserably and led millions of Filipinos jobless and starving,” they said.
At the other end of the line
On August 23, Cebu’s alternative media arm ANINAW Productions reported that a “concerned” sender sent a message to both Karapatan Timog Katagalugan (TK) and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) the day before. The message contained the names, albeit believed to have been mispelled some, of ten different activists who are said to be slated for possible “liquidation” in Negros.
Among the nicknames being “Clarissa Dagatan” was believed to be referring to Karaptan-Negros secretary general Clarizza Singson, who was also the recipient of numerous death threats before. After Alvarez, formerly affiliated with Karapatan-Negros Island, was gunned down last August 17, a threat came that Singson would be next.
A “Clarissa” would be mentioned again on August 31, when Karapatan-Negros deputy secretary and BAYAN-Negros media liaison Julius Dagatan received a death threat. This came shortly after Alvarez died. According to Dagatan himself, this “Clarissa” is indeed referring to Singson, his wife.
The anonymous sender, with the number, anticipated Dagatan’s potential demise and noted that “they” would be coming for him.
“Nakabalik na pala si Jules (Julius Dagatan) na asawa ni Clarissa sa kilusan. Malapit na araw nyan. [Ang] bilis pero makukuha din namin yan. CONDOLENCE,” the message said.
On August 30, Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates (NNARA Youth Negros member Rommel “Berting” Oriente was threatened to not enter La Carlota City, Negros Occidental. According to the sender, the 62nd Infantry Battalion (IB) placed a bounty on him, and that the sender was ready to kill him on sight.
Then, on September 3, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) reported that an Anakbayan-La Carlota member received two death threats from an unknown sender, who red-tagged the member.
“meg kamusta? kabalo na kami nga ginapasaka n[i]yo na si berting sa bukid isa kana sang amon target, si berting ya luyag na siyang magsurender sa amon,” the messenger said, saying that a certain Rommel “Berting” Oriente would be killed if he were to set foot in La Carlota, Negros.
Wolves at the door
There was also an instance when state agents such as the police harassed advocates at their own home.
In Southern Tagalog Exposure’s August 30 report, Kalikasan People’s Network Southern Tagalog leader Petty Serrano, encountered four men on a motorcycle. There were also reportedly individuals waiting in a silver Toyota Innova car.
One of them pretended to be a Shoppe delivery man, in a similar vein to an incident when an officer dressed as an LBC delivery man attempted to serve a warrant to Karapatan secretary-general Cristina “Tinay” Palabay last June 12.
“A team of cowards just arrived in front of our house! 4 motorcycles boarded with tandems. Innova silver and another one. Ang sigaw pa … [S]hopee kaya naman pinalabas ko anak ko,” Serrano wrote.
Upon Serrano’s son receiving the package, they found a piece of paper, attached with P250 in cash, with demands such as for her to talk, leave, and hit full time, as well as contact information for a “Jerome.” An ominous warning could be found at the bottom most part, which said that if she refused to cooperate, she would be included in the “terror list.”
She even described the paper given as a “piece of sheet with shit.”
In response, Karapatan TK believed that this was a clear sign of how the ATL is being used in the Southern Tagalog region.
“Sa kabila ng pandemya at kahirapan, patuloy ang pagbabanta ng pasistang AFP-PNP sa pangunguna ng administrasyong Duterte sa buhay at seguridad ng mga progresibong lider na tapat at nagsusulong ng karapatang pantao. Malinaw na desperado ang rehimeng Duterte na kitilin ang boses ng mamamayang nakikibaka at nagsusulong ng karapatan ng mga batayang sektor ng lipunan,” Karapatan TK said.
Attacks on all sides
As of writing, reports of illegal arrests and forms of red-tagging have continued to skyrocket.
Last September 5, Anakbayan reported that an animated video was shown during an NSTP orientation for the University of Rizal System. The animation, titled “Barangay Module ng mga Teroristang NPA” red-tagged legitimate organizations, including Anakbayan, the League of FIlipino Students (LFS), Gabriela Youth, and the SCMP.
In less than 24 hours, around September 6 to 7, progressive individuals such as BAYAN Camarines Sur chairperson Nelsy Rodriguez, Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) Panay Chair Rev. Marco Sulayao, and CONDOR-PISTON Bicol spokesperson Ramon Rescovilla were either threatened to surrender under the idea of them being terrorists or detained by authorities.
While Rev. Sulayao and his family were blocked in a checkpoint and threatened by police in civilian clothing, both Rodriguez and Rescovilla were illegally detained in Naga City and Daraga, respectively. [P]