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Issue #1800      October 25, 2017

Communist tagging

“President Duterte is barking like a mad dog again. This time, following the line of previous administrations in branding progressive organisations as communist fronts, Duterte is replicating the same dangerous environment that makes human rights defenders vulnerable to all kinds of rights violations and fascist attacks imaginable,” said Karapatan* secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Karapatan said this in reaction to Duterte’s statements that rights groups Piston, Kilusang Mayo Uno and Karapatan are legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“His statement is not new; it is a tired, unoriginal label that attempts to subvert the public attention from the legitimate campaigns forwarded by these organisations. Tagging progressive legal organisations as fronts of the CPP has always been part of government’s counter-insurgency programs, with their ultimate objective of stifling people’s dissent,” Palabay said.

According to Palabay, red-tagging, throughout regimes has claimed the lives of human rights workers, activists and ordinary people. “Duterte is nothing but second-rate trying hard to copycat previous regimes. He is a sad, rambling, delusional and disappointing replica of past fascists and plunderers who all have bloody records of human rights violations,” she stated.

Forty-one human rights workers and activists of Karapatan have been killed since 2001, in line with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya. Among them were Eden Marcellana and Benjaline Hernandez, previously tagged as NPAs or communists. The killings and illegal arrests continued during the Aquino regime which subsequently implemented Oplan Bayanihan. Such red-tagging has resulted in a number of attacks against human rights workers. Are you warning us, Mr President, of things to come?” asked Palabay.

Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrests and detention, trumped up charges, among others, have been the content of the many counter-insurgency programs which aims to dilute any distinction between the armed revolutionary movement and the progressive legal organisations, justifying rights violations against the latter.

“That very thinking is fascist. Instead of heeding the people’s clamour for genuine change, Duterte carries on with rights abuses and blatantly rewards military officials responsible for these attacks. Their dangling medals and badges are smeared with the blood of farmers, workers, national minorities who have stood firm in fighting for their civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights” said Palabay.

On the other hand, Palabay said that Duterte’s statements saying organisations like Piston and KMU are committing rebellion is tantamount to acknowledgement of the people’s clamour for failed change under his administration. “Mr President, this is us making you accountable for all the promises you have uttered. This is us making your government, as we have likewise done in previous regimes, accountable to the Filipino people,” she added.

“This president resorts to red-tagging, when he cannot keep up with his promises of change. Change does not equate to the perpetuation of labour contractualisation, and change is not stripping of the poor of their livelihood, and lives,” Palabay said.

Palabay also pointed out that Duterte’s invectives are now increasingly against the Filipino people, especially the poor. “Now, he’s wishing them all to die. Aren’t you already killing them Mr President, with that failed change of yours?” she said.

The group defended the legitimate transport strike of Piston and KMU.

Piston and KMU are pursuing the interests of the poor and marginalised, the workers whom Duterte failed. They protest because the government has refused to end contractualisation and has failed to heed the plight of the workers. Piston is representing the jeepney drivers who will lose their livelihood when Duterte continues to push for this fake modernisation which will rake in profit for a few while increasing the burden of the majority, including the everyday commuter. This is not the modernisation, the change that we want,” concluded Palabay.

Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights

* Karapatan is an alliance of human rights organisations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organisations, and individual advocates committed to the defence and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.

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