Stop the killings in the Philippines!
On March 5, President Rodrigo Duterte gave orders about how to deal with communist rebels to the police and military at a meeting in Cagayan de Oro City of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Duterte said, “Kill, kill them all. Finish them. Don’t mind human rights.”
Following his statement, in the early dawn of March 7, synchronized police-military raids in Southern Luzon joined by various Police Regional Offices in CALABARZON with operating units from CIDG Regional Field Unit 4A, CIDG National Capital Region, Special Action Force, and its Air Unit in collaboration with the 202nd Brigade, 2ID Philippine Army.
The state forces had search warrants for 18 individuals, most were known leaders and members of progressive organizations in the region. The Tokhang-style operations led to the killing of leaders and members of local people’s organizations and the arrest of activists. According to authorities, nine were killed, six were arrested and six remain at-large. The brutal incidents are now referred to as ‘Bloody Sunday’.
The killings are undoubtedly state-sponsored extrajudicial killings that merit the broadest condemnation from sectors. The victims were brutally killed and presented by the police as criminals who resisted the serving of search warrants.
Those killed were the following:
> Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Asuncion. He was killed at the Workers Assistance Center in Cavite. He was a long-time leader of Solidarity of Cavite Workers. He was a former coordinator of Bayan Muna partylist in Rosario town and concurrent Vice-Chair of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Cavite.
> Activist-couple Anna Marie ‘Chai’ Lemita-Evangelista and Ariel Evangelista of the Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwawasak ng Kalikasan at Kalupaan (UMALPAS-KA). Their house in Barangay Calayo, Nasugbu in Batangas was raided at 4AM. Their 10-year old son escaped the carnage but remain in shock due to the incidents. Initial reports state that the couple were tortured. The Lemita family, including veteran fisherfolk Mandy Lemita endured harassment from past and present regimes due to their firm stance against land grabbing and land use conversion of Hacienda Looc in Nasugbu, and militarization in Batangas.
> Michael Dasigao, Mark Lee Bacasno, housing rights activists and members of San Isidro Kasiglahan, Kapatiran at Damayan para sa Kabuhayan, Katarungan at Kapayapaan (SIKKAD-K3). They victims were urban poor organizers from Kasiglahan Village 3 in Montalban, Rizal. Authorities are denying access to the bodies of Dasigao and Bacasno. According to police reports, brothers Abner Esto and Edward Esto were among those killed.,
> Dumagats Puroy Dela Cruz and Randy Dela Cruz killed in Sitio Mina, Sta. Inez, Tanay, Rizal. They were proclaimed dead on arrival at the Rizal Provincial Hospital.
Among those arrested were the following:
> Esteban ‘Steve’ Mendoza, National Executive Vice President of Olalia-Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).
> Nimfa Lanzanas, 61, a paralegal of Karapatan and a member of Kapatid – Families and Friends of Political Prisoners. As a paralegal, she assists victims of human rights violations including her son, political prisoner Edward Lanzanas. Now, she is a political prisoner herself. Lanzanas is a grandmother of four and suffers from hypertension and arthritis.
> Elizabeth “Mags” Camoral, former union president of F-Tech and current spokesperson of Bayan-Laguna. She was arrested at the office of Defend Yulo Farmers in Cabuyao, Laguna.
> Eugene Eugenio, member of COURAGE-Rizal and a former employee of Antipolo City Hall.
> Joan Ignacio Efren who was arrested in Sitio Lukuang Malaki, San Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal.
Some of the search warrants in the March 7 raids were issued by Judge Jose Lorenzo de la Rosa, Presiding Judge of the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 4. Dela Rosa was the same Judge that issued search warrants against Tumanduk activists in Capiz and Iloilo last December 30. Judge Divinagracia Bustos-Ongkeko of RTC Branch 91 Sta. Cruz, Laguna, and Judge Jason Zapanta of Manila RTC Branch 6 also issued search warrants.
We make President Rodrigo Duterte, Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., and the entire NTF-ELCAC responsible for this brutal crackdown and killings of Southern Luzon activists. The raids and killings came days after Duterte verbalized his “kill them all” order in what is appearing to be the NTF-ELCAC’s “March offensive” against activists and progressive people’s organization red-tagged as so-called “legal fronts.” CALABARZON and the entire Southern Luzon is under the jurisdiction of Parlade, also among the most rabid red-taggers from the NTF-ELCAC.
There could be more follow-up operations and raids in the coming days and weeks, and the public must remain vigilant in resisting state-sponsored human rights violations.