Karapatan says ‘killing spree’ against rights workers in PH continue

Oct. 31, 2017

Photo courtesy of Karapatan

TAGUM CITY, Philippines — A human rights group said Tuesday, October 31, that the Duterte administration continues to intensify its attacks against human rights defenders under the counter-insurgency program “Oplan Kapayapaan.”

“Duterte is a human rights violator, peddling fascist policies that continue the killing, illegal arrests and harassment directed against human rights workers,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay in a statement on Tuesday, October 31.

Karapatan has expressed grave concerned with the government’s “Oplan Kapayapaan” and its war on illegal drugs that gave the government forces the license to kill while “ensuring they have the resources, funds, and protection to go forward with their killing spree.”

For instance, a paralegal of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) in Gubat, Sorsogon, Bicol was killed by two armed men on the morning of October 25.

The victim was identified as Edwin Pura, 49 who worked as a paralegal staff of NUPL Second Vice President for Luzon, Atty. Ron Ely Espinosa, who himself, recently survived a failed slay try sometime in the last week of August 2017.
Karapatan said that Pura is a former Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and transport group leader in Sorsogon province.

Pura’s companion, Willy Broño, was also shot dead, while another lady victim identified as Grace Merilo was rushed to the hospital, the group added.

Apart from Pura, on October 27, government troops belonging to the military’s 24th Infantry Battalion (IB), 7th Infantry Division (ID) raided the home of peasant leader Eugene Antonio in Mudiit, Dolores, Abra. The government troops served a warrant to search for weapons that allegedly possessed by Antonio but the search yielded nothing, according to Karapatan.

Instead, government forces seized documents of the Mudiit People’s Organization, a local group of which Antonio is an officer. Antonio, also a pastor, has received death threats and has been the subject of red-tagging after the 24th IB accused him of being a supporter of the New People’s Army, the group said.

On the same day in Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur, Julito Otacan, a field worker of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), along with five other Banwaon community members, were arrested by elements of the Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion.

Otacan, along with Alejandro Barluado, Jonas Acosta, Noli Tahudan, Marlon Talatayod, and Joel Trasona, were taken to the Police Station in Rubako, San Luis, Agusan del Sur after soldiers allegedly found grenades, firearms, and other equipment in the residents’ houses.

The five arrested along with Otacan are all members of the Banwaon Peoples’ Organization, Tagdumahan, a group consistently targeted “because of their struggles and campaigns against logging and mining concessions infringing on the Banwaon’s ancestral domain.”

On October 28, Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) chairperson Windel Bolinget and vice-chairperson Xavier Akin, along with staff of the Center for Development Programs (CDPC) were flagged down by elements of the PNP twice while on their way to Baguio – the first incident in Tirad Pass while the group was traversing the Santiago-Quirino road and the second instance in Lidlida, Ilocos Sur.

Karapatan said they were held without charges, with the police failing to provide any valid explanation for detaining the group. Bolinget, Akin, and CDPC staff were eventually allowed to pass an hour after they were accosted.

“By allowing his counterinsurgency program to continuously wreck havoc among the ranks of rights defenders, Duterte should ultimately be held responsible for these ongoing and intensifying attacks,” Palabay said.

She added: “Oplan Kapayapaan, which explicity and systematically legitimizes violations against human rights defenders using the catch-all rhetoric of them being enemies of the State.” (davaotoday.com)

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