For regional advocates and sectoral leaders, the real Duterte legacy was the blood shed along the way.
“Ang tugon natin dito ay wakasan ang isang pasismo, ang isang rehimen na nagdulot ng ibayong ligalig sa mga tao – ang tiranyang pamamahala na nalantad sa pamamagitan ng masusing paglalahad ng mga pangyayari dito sa Timog Katagalugan (TK),” Pastor Edwin Egar of United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) said.
Egar, the opening speaker, joined fellow Southern Tagalog (ST) progressives last July 23 the virtual State of the Human Rights Address 2021 organized by human rights alliance Karapatan TK. Here, advocates talked about the continuing rise of human rights violations (HRVs) in the ST region, as well as developments in cases before.
As Egar explained that the ultimate goal of the participants of the event – to oppose the tyrannical administration and defend the human rights of the people of Southern Tagalog, he too called for unity among participants in Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s then-final State of the Nation Address (SONA).
He highlighted the bloody legacy of the hotly contested Terror Law, which was blamed for the rapid increase of red-tagging and murder cases among activists, sectoral workers, and even civilians.
“Sa ganitong sitwasyong umiiral ang mga batas na kanilang ginawa tulad ng Anti-Terrorism Law […] Ito’y nakikita ko na pagkakataon upang ipagtatanggol at itaguyod natin ang karapatan ng mga mamamayan. Tayong lahat ay inaanyayahan, hinihimok na sa darating na SONA ay magsama-sama,” Egar exclaimed.
Defend-ST spokesperson Charm Maranan then discussed the crackdown on activists in the region.
She explained that the administration established its goal to control and silence activists when Duterte issued Proclamation 360 – which terminated peace talks between the Philippine government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) – and Executive Order 70 – which formed the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“After the cancellation of the peace talks, he tagged CPP-NPA as a communist-terrorist group, and at the same time, itong branding na ito, or tagging na ito bilang mga terorista sa mga rebolusyonaryong grupo, ito rin yung magbubunsod noong pagsasagwa o paggamit ni Duterte ng whole of nation approach na naka-pattern sa US War on Terror, sa framework ng US sa kung paano nito sinusugpo ang ‘terorismo’ sa ating bansa,” Maranan said.
Further in her speech, Maranan explained how Duterte is using the public health crisis to impose mandatory lockdown as a form of population control and to silence critics in lieu of providing effective medical solutions. She also explained that Duterte prioritized the Terror Law over the pandemic.
Maranan also recalled different instances of human rights abuses such as the Cabuyao 11 incident, Bloody Sunday massacre, and various harassments against farmers – incidents that she explains are mostly based on trumped-up charges and even planted evidence.
Former UPLB USC Chairperson Jainno Bongon, representing the student-youth, then explained that even they are not safe from Duterte’s tyranny. He gave examples how the administration is oppressing the student-youth state such as how state forces are allegedly profiling them for the mere reason that they established community pantries, and how they are being accused of associating with a terrorist group.
“Kung babagtasin natin ang mga nagdaang taon, makikita natin na hindi ligtas, maging yung sektor ng kabataan mula sa pamamasista ng rehimen ni Duterte. Hindi tayo ligtas na mga kabataan, mga estudyante sa de-facto martial law na ipinatupad ng rehimen ni Duterte,” Bongon said.
After Fatima from Mothers and Children for Protection of Human Rights presented the status of women under the administration of “US-Duterte Regime” in a video, Jerie Luna from Tanggol Magsasaka said that 14 farmers were killed, 12 arrested, and five more abducted all across the region. Furthermore, Luna also shared that there are farmers who remain as political prisoners despite their medical conditions.
“Ang pagdukot at panghaharas sa [mga magsasaka] ay para maisakatuparan ang planong malawakang demolisyon, at kasalukuyan nang nararanasan ng mga kasama nating magsasaka sa rehiyon ng Timog Katagalugan. […] Ang matinding harassment, pagpatay, pagpapalayas ay para lamang po sa interes nila ng pagpapalit-gamit ng lupa, para magawa kung ano ‘yung mga proyekto na nais nilang gawin,” said Luna.
Meanwhile, Kobi Tolentino of Anakbayan-ST discussed how the Bacoor local government prioritizes its reclamation and infrastructure projects that violate the residents’ right to land, while also failing to provide quality education to the students and social services and free healthcare to the rest of the residents.
He also explained that there have been 10 recorded cases of arson in Bacoor urban poor communities since November 2020. He says that this is the local government’s way of quickly clearing the community of its residents, under the supervision of Mayor Lani Mercado, who aims to make Bacoor a “little Hong Kong.”
Then, Alvin Avance from Youth Movement Against Tyranny Laguna discussed how the administration’s culture of tyranny, and impunity is the result of the three “wars” that Duterte started: the War on Drugs, the War on Dissent, and now the War on COVID-19.
“Malinaw na malinaw yung pattern na bawat issue na panlipunan at suliranin ng ating lipunan na dumarating sa ating bansa ay tinitignan niya bilang giyera. Kaya makikita natin yung kanyang uri ng pagtugon, ng gobyerno ni Duterte sa mga suliraning ito ay napakamilitaristiko at binabanataan niya ito sa pamamagitan ng pasismo.”
After Defend Rizal’s Mark Louise Hizon called out the government to stop intimidation and harassment against progressives; for the release of all political prisoners; for justice for all those who were abused and killed; and for the abolition of the Anti-Terror Law, Karapatan-TK spokesperson Kyle Salgado asserted that the people of Southern Tagalog will no longer stand quietly until Duterte remains in power. [P]
Photo by Sophia Isabel Pangilinan