NOTE: This is an archived story originally published on UPLB Perspective Editorial Vol 46 Issue 5, on October 2020.
Genuine peace is not in the vocabulary of the tyrannical, fascist Duterte regime. The severe situation of widespread poverty, joblessness, and political vilification have pushed the marginalized against the wall, leaving them no choice but to resist.
Prior to the enactment of the draconian Terror Law, thousands of civil groups and individuals have already started speaking out on the dangerous implications and horrors the law may bring — and horrors it did deliver once it took effect. This, combined with the government’s Executive Order 70, has shown devastating manifestations under the “whole-of-nation approach”.
Despite having a law that Congress claims is a weapon to fight terror, human rights defenders are endlessly terrorized and red-tagged by state agents, through harassments in communities, both rural and urban, and through social media platforms.
Last August 12, a certain “Abaka Kugon” page tagged Charm Maranan and Kyle Salgado as revolutionaries of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army- National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF). Salgado and Maranan are both human rights defenders volunteering for Karapatan Southern Tagalog, a human rights alliance mobilizing in the region, and both studied in UPLB.
This isn’t the only case of human rights defenders being harassed. On August 30, Petty Serrano, a convenor of Kalikasan People’s Network Southern Tagalog, received a package from a man pretending to be a Shopee delivery employee with cash and a piece of paper attached. The note had written demands for her to choose her fate — talk, hide, or go full-time. A similar event happened last June 12, when a cop dressed in an LBC uniform attempted to serve a warrant to Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay.
Instead of listening to criticism, the government chose to silence dissent using the law. In April, more than a dozen people were reportedly summoned by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for supposedly spreading “false information” about Covid-19 on social media. It was then revealed by human rights lawyer Chel Diokno that his client was one of the recipients of NBI’s summon, stating that they were merely “airing their sentiments on the government’s response to Covid-19 on social media”.
Instead of prioritizing funding for healthcare and other social services, the government chose to funnel billions of pesos to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), in a desperate attempt to obliterate the armed struggle as if it was that simple to end the insurgency.
The reality of this task force is that it does more harm than good —endangering local communities and members of legitimate progressive organizations. Such is the case of the San Isidro Kasiglahan, Kapatiran, at Damayan para sa Kabuhayan, Katarungan at Kapayapaan (SIKKAD K3), an urban poor group residing in Brgy. Rodriguez, Montalban, Rizal.
While the community is continually calling for their housing rights, officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been relentlessly red-tagging the said group, going as far as accusing them to be sympathizers of the CPP-NPA-NDF — endangering the lives and security of the urban poor activists in the area.
And as if all these crimes were not enough, then came the deaths of Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez. Echanis was the chairperson of Anakpawis and a peace talks consultant for the NDF. He was tortured and stabbed to death in his own home in Quezon City last August 10.
And on August 17, the day of Echanis’ funeral — Alvarez was shot dead outside of her apartment. She was a human rights advocate situated in the blood-drenched Negros region.
According to their peers, both killings were allegedly done by state agents after being part of so-called “hit lists” and being a victim of continued red-tagging. Their deaths deserve nothing less but utmost condemnation.
The government says that they want to purge terrorism, yet chooses to terrorize the oppressed sectors while turning a blind eye on real terrorist groups. They claim to want peace, yet refuse to address the roots of armed conflict — the worsening situation of poverty brought upon the selfish, exploitative control of landlords, bureaucrats, and imperialist plunderers.
What the state still fails to understand is that: crisis generates resistance. For as long as the fundamental issues of society are left unresolved, there will always be advocates, activists, and revolutionaries resisting injustice. For as long as the present system exists, there can be no genuine peace for the Filipino people. [P]