In the Bicol region in the Philippines, the people are still mourning a series of killings, as new extrajudicial killings — suspected to be perpetrated by state forces — have been recently recorded in these communities.
The series of brutal killings led the National Democratic Front in the region to asked President Rodrigo Duterte what change he pledged for the people, with his tagline “Change is Coming.”
“What change can be boasted by a regime which systematically removes all machinery that will ensure its accountability to the people so that his offensives will be completely undisputed against the people?” NDF-Bicol spokesperson Roja Banua raised while condemning recent civilian killings in Sorsogon province and the allocated about US$20 Commission on Human Rights budget passed by the house of representatives.
It's been more than a year since Duterte’s pro-people campaign image, which has now subsided and the fascist, dictatorial moves have surfaced. Every day, new cases of killings have been reported. Many lives have been taken in the face of the triple war of the present regime while the ruling class and imperialist powers continue to plunder the country's resources.
According to Banua, no other change was felt by the people but a new and more intimidating threat to their lives. “The whole country is a big cemetery … while the criminal AFP-PNP-CAFGU collects bloody medals and honor,” she said.
Civilian killings were recorded in two separate incidents in Sorsogon province this week. Within half a year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit have already killed 18 civilians according to NDF-Bicol.
The New People's Army's Celso Minguez Command expressed its condemnation of the worsening case of extrajudicial killings by the military in its province and denied allegations that the civilians recently killed were members of its command.
On Sept. 13, four men on motorcycles gunned down habal-habal driver Alvin Oplida at 10 am in Bacolod, Juban while waiting for passengers at the parking area bound for Barangay Calmayon and Catanusan. Oplida, resident of Maalo, Juban, has long been harassed by soldiers and accused of being an NPA supporter.
On Sept. 12., Village Councilor Salvador Atienza of Trece Martirez, Casiguran was shot dead by unknown gunmen at about 4 p.m. while driving his motorized tricycle. Atienza had attended 4Ps beneficiaries meeting with his two young daughters.
According to an NDF-Bicol report, elements of the 31st Infantry Brigade of the Philippines Army had earlier threatened Atienza and other local officials in Casiguran before the killing incident. “At the meeting, the military mentioned that they had two village councilors as target following the death of Captain Oscar Jetomo of Marinas, Gubat,” Banua stated.
“Only the military has a clear motive to kill Village Councilor Atienza because they suspected him as a member of the revolutionary mass organization and supporter of NPA,” Ka Samuel Guerrero of NPA-CMC testified.
Guerrero added that during the meeting of some town officials in Casiguran Aug. 20, the 31st IBPA troops indirectly boasted that they killed Captain Jetomo.
Prior to the killing, Atienza filed a blotter report in the village and PNP-Casiguran in the first week of August when the mirror of his tricycle was stoned and broken by two unknown men who searched for him. At that time, Trece Martirez was among the list of communities for 31st IBPA troop combat operations.
The allocated US$20 for Commission on Human Rights is not just a matter of insulting the institution but also an insult to the lives and rights of the people.
“The 119 lawmakers who are traitors were thrilled to vote in favor of such a proposal. They have once again proved how easy it is to manipulate the country's legislative process in favor of their own interests,” Banua said.
“It illustrates the conspiracy and exploitation of the government’s ruling classes who have no respect for the people's lives. It only affirms that in the eyes of trying-to-be-vigilant lawmakers and officials, there is not a single cent worth of life. It only exposes the ultimate rotten state willing to betray the people in exchange for the promise of power,” Banua expressed.
The worst part, according to Banua, is that the U.S.-Duterte regime combines in its anti-people war the effort to disable government institutions with a mandate to uphold and defend human rights.
Duterte sabotages negotiations and initiatives to pursue genuine peace in the country. He serves and protects AFP and PNP to compliment his all-out-war in various bloody forms. CA rejection of Gina Lopez, Judy Taguiwalo and Ka Paeng Mariano are subliminal that the Duterte regime is not after the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms but only for a ceasefire.
Allotting about US$20 for CHR in 2018 will only slow down the constitutional mandate of the monitoring committee to investigate human rights violations and monitor the government's compliance with international treaty obligations on human rights.
It restricts the operations of the Joint Monitoring Committee to monitor the implementation of and achieve the purposes of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law since the GRP's machinery has a limited budget to fact check reports of human rights violations around the country.
Duterte is pushing the people to arm themselves and fight back, according to NDF-Bicol.
“The reactionary state is wrong if it thinks the people will kneel through its fascism. In times when the rights of the people are blatantly violated, there’s nothing else for the people to do but to rely on their own strength,” Banua said.
According to Banua, Duterte and all his minions must be held accountable to the people's betrayal and their continued patronage of the imperialist design of suppression and violence.
“The long-term change the people are hoping for depends on the success of the people's democratic revolution,” Banua said.
First published at BaretangBikolnon.com, an alternative media outlet in the Bicol region, Philippines.