The Gist


ICYMI, red-tagged rights group activists have been slain over the weekend following President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to “finish off” communists. With investigations still on-going, the Internet, no, Filipinos have a lot to say about the lines that appeared to have forcefully blurred between dissent and communism.

/ 11 March 2021

Judging from the recent deaths of human rights activists across the country in recent years, the Philippines currently doesn’t feel like a safe place to those who raise their voice against those in power. In fact, over the weekend, at least nine were killed and six were arrested following simultaneous raids that were led by the Philippine National Police (PNP). 

On Sunday, March 7, leaders and members of groups being linked to communist rebels in Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Cavite were raided by the PNP. According to Calabarzon Police Spokesperson Lt. Col. Citadel Gaoiran, the police meant to serve search warrants for loose firearms and illegal possession of explosives.

But the said raid led to the killing of nine people, which PNP Chief Debold Sinas justified, by saying it was “covered with search warrants.”

“It’s not illegitimate operation, it’s legitimate operations because they are covered with search warrants. Kung alam n’yo lang kung gaano kahirap kumuha ng search warrant maiintindihan n’yo,” Sinas said in an interview. “You have to justify to the judge (and) bring witnesses. Those are legitimate operations that are valid and covered properly by documents issued by the court.”

KARAPATAN National Secretary General Cristina Palabay has identified five of the fatalities as members of progressive groups as Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion, a Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) coordinator in Cavite; Mark Lee Bacasno and Melvin Dasigao, both members of the urban poor group San Isidro Kasiglahan, Kapatiran at Damayan para sa Kabuhayan, Katarungan at Kapayapaan (SIKKAD K-3); and Ariel Evangelista and his wife, Chai Lemita Evangelista, activists who advocated fishermen’s rights.

“Our calls for justice ring louder more than ever as we demand the release of all those arrested in Southern Tagalog and all political prisoners, and to hold accountable the perpetrators of the killings in the region today,” Palabay stressed.

Palabay also called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to probe the raids and ensure that “justice and accountability” are served for the victims of state terror. “We will not be silenced. We call on all Filipinos to condemn these raids and to stand with us in the struggle for justice and in defending people’s rights.” 

Two days before the raid, it can be recalled that President Duterte ordered government forces to “kill” and “finish” communists off. “I’ve told the military and the police, that if they find themselves in an armed encounter with the communist rebels, kill them, make sure you really kill them, and finish them off if they are alive. Just make sure to return their bodies to their respective families.”

“Forget about human rights. That’s my order. I’m willing to go to jail, that’s not a problem. I do not have any qualms about doing the things that I have to do,” the President added. 

Now more than ever, the Filipino people must unite and vehemently condemn the actions of the state that directly go against its constituents. Extrajudicial killings are not in the hands of the ordinary people, but with silence, violence is perpetuated.