Two days after President Rodrigo Duterte tells the military and police to kill communist rebels right away–even explicitly stating that they should ignore human rights, ‘Bloody Sunday’ looms large on news headlines, wherein nine people who were identified as legal activists of various progressive and indigenous groups, in multiple and separate police operations, were murdered during “communist insurgency crackdowns” in the provinces of Calabarzon.
It is no secret that the administration and its tone-deaf supporters have always had a difficulty in recognizing the obvious discrepancies between social activists, government critics, and even indigenous peoples from terrorist groups. They have been indiscriminately agglomerated together as if they share the same ideals, resulting in wrongful accusations and even fatalities.
It is not a surprise, to be honest, that this growing string of violence against progressive activist groups and individuals continues in this never-ending struggle against the systemic injustices perpetrated by the same people tasked to “serve and protect” and blindly adhering to a tyrannical government.
This administration seemingly goes as far as implementing a safety blanket, more known as Executive Order 70, as a “good-natured”, institutionalized, whole-of-nation approach in obtaining exclusive and “sustainable peace-giving” mandate and the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Both being weaponized to justify the ironically brutal extrajudicial killings and continued insinuations of red-tagging among progressive groups, critics and several others.
This, being another addition to the blatant attacks on those critical of the government.
It’s long been evident that these groups and the people comprising it have been made targets, constantly stigmatized and are even branded as recruiters of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.
Alarmingly enough, in 2020, the United Nations (UN) even reported that there is a serious lack of due process in police operations and near-total impunity for the use of lethal force by state forces in the country.
Activists, who call out corruption experienced in society, politics, economy, the environment, and so on and who fight for systemic reform are thrown flac, arrested and even killed by state forces. This is proof of how the administration treats its critics and how little they respect the latter’s human dignity.
The constant disregard and violation of people’s rights and liberties stems from that one promise of change itself. And the way human rights have constantly been brushed off the shoulder as if it doesn’t mean anything is harrowing. This wasn’t the change people were looking for.
In a democracy, it is imperative that the people are involved in bringing about the change they need, even if it means disagreeing with the administration, and, by doing so, have the right to be safe from persecution and violence. As the age-old adage on democratic participation goes, “supreme power is to be vested in the people.” Throwing threats and intimidation at people who are merely exercising their rights is no way to run a democratic government–if it can still be called that in substance, anyway. The ceaseless red-tagging and killing need to stop.
It is not a “leftist agenda” to be politically involved or to urge our government to do better by using the power given by the people to safeguard their human rights and to address the injustices still prevalent in our society. We all have equally important constitutional liberties that need to be respected and protected.
The struggle to have the rights of activists and progressive organizations recognized and respected, especially by law enforcers, is a continuing challenge. But it is clear that these rights should never be mauled by the state just because the latter has the power to surveil and suppress. And it is, without a shadow of a doubt, imperative that we cut off this growing string of violence.