The day Duterte signed the Anti-terrorism Law, 11 activists in Cabuyao, Laguna were manhandled by police and military men as they were packing up after a peaceful protest. They were detained without charges. A few days later, the National Vice-Chairperson of Gabriela and Chairperson of Bicolana is arrested based on a trumped up murder case. Jenelyn Nagrampa is also a barangay councilor in Nabua town, Camarines Sur.
In between these accusations and illegal arrests against human rights activists, Fabel Pineda, a 15-year-old girl is murdered after filing a molestation complaint against a cop in Cabugao, Ilocos Sur. According to reports, the Philippine National Police filed murder complaints against Staff Sergeant Randy Ramos and Staff Sergeant Marawi Torda. Ramos is also facing another rape complaint by Fabel Pineda’s 18-year-old cousin. Pineda and her cousin were sexually harassed after they were arrested for violating curfew.
Duterte has enabled police brutality during his war against drugs, which is actually a war against the poor. Tokhang murdered many in the guise of “nanlaban,” and children were not excluded. But big-time cartels and drug lords that supply drug trafficking operations and the industry are exempted. He also promised to support soldiers fighting the war in Marawi even if they commit rape. Now, as a means to fight COVID-19, he deployed soldiers and policemen all over the country to implement the months-long lockdown.
Online videos of police brutality, stories of torture, violence, threats and inhumane arrests went viral online. The past four years, Duterte has made police brutality the new normal. With the passing of the Anti-Terrorism Law (ATL), he aims to silence critics and activists crying for free mass testing, medical solution, socio-economic assistance for farmers, fisher folk, jeepney drivers and laborers affected by the lockdown. The Anti-Terrorism Law is the final stage of his fascism. With this law, Duterte no longer has to declare Martial Law to violate our constitutional rights.
Our rights to freedom of expression, dissent and information have not been suspended yet we see violent dispersal of peaceful protests (despite protesters strictly following health protocols). They try to appease our anger by saying only “terrorists” will be punished by the ATL but continues to tag progressive organizations as rebels and members of the New People’s Army. They laugh at our call to Junk Terror Bill yet show up in houses of a human rights activist donning an LBC uniform to issue a warrant of arrest, without reading her Miranda rights.
Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address is due this month. If we look back on his reign of terror, we see the rising death toll of peasants, the demise of the local rice industry with the implementation of RA 11203 or Rice Liberalization Law, illegal arrests, red tagging, loss of our exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea and intensive militarization in the countryside.
Of course, let’s not forget about the Department of Education’s Distance Learning (DL) as a band-aid, discriminatory solution to education in this pandemic. Instead of declaring this year as a non-formal, adaptive year where education can finally address non-readers in high school and other backlogs in learning competencies, DepEd insists on a formal school opening next month. Last year, 27 million students enrolled in DepEd. Now that enrollment has ended, only 15 million students were able to enroll. 12 million students will be displaced and this is alarming because the department’s mandate is to “protect and promote the right of every Filipino to quality, equitable, culture-based and complete basic education.”
Creating an adaptive learning curriculum will help students survive the pandemic through livelihood, skills-based and health education. DepEd should build health centers, provide health personnel, handwashing facilities, COVID-ready buildings, and address its existing backlogs like lack of basic classroom materials, insufficient learning materials and other basic equipment. Instead of consulting communities to create learning programs that will respond to their needs, DepEd fast tracks distance learning approaches that is divorced from the reality of the masses. Distance Learning is not the new normal because it dismisses DepEd’s existing problems and assumes that students and parents are capable of homeschooling. It wrongfully presumes that the existence of modules alone is enough for learning to take place.
Duterte has always failed to address the real state of the nation. This year, he has failed to address health protocols, provide clear, medical solutions to the public in his late night, edited speeches. He resorts to bullying, threats, swearing and irresponsibly spreads misinformation about the virus. He flies to his family in his private jet plane while stranded Filipinos die of hunger as they wait in footbridges, bus terminals, airports and piers. He uses this opportunity to phase out jeepneys and lets commuters suffer the lack of transportation vehicles. In his fourth SONA, if he is honest, he will boast about the 50,000 COVID-19 cases, the massive loss of livelihood, the discriminatory guidelines of the Social Amelioration Program. He will pretend that funds have been depleted despite the trillions of money borrowed from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank for COVID-19 response alone.
It is high time we listen to the basic sectors instead. “We urge the people to uphold human rights, oppose political persecution of activists in the country and demand the junking of the terror law. It is clear that Duterte is carrying out step-by-step measures towards authoritarianism, assaulting all the basic freedoms of the people in the country, including the right to freedom of speech and expression, press freedom and livelihood,” Zenaida Soriano of Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women said. (davaotoday.com)
Rae Rival writes and does volunteer work for Gantala Press and Rural Women Advocates. She is a teacher and a mother. Her stories, poems and essays have appeared in CNN Philippines, Rappler, Voice and Verse Poetry Magazine (Hong Kong), Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, university presses and do-it-yourself zines.