More than a dozen national and international organizations are inviting everyone to participate in the September 14 Global Day of Action which raises the call “stop the killings in the Philippines!”
The organizers say the September 14 worldwide mass actions wish to tell the world that, quite tragically, the pandemic has not paused summary executions and extrajudicial killings in the country.
We’ve heard and have been shocked by the stories of political murders since the Philippines was placed under the world’s longest and strictest lockdown: Long-time activist leader Jory Porquia was killed in April in Iloilo province. Peasant advocate and peace consultant Randall Echanis was tortured and killed in his own home in Quezon City. Human rights defender Zara Alvarez was shot dead right outside her apartment in Bacolod City.
At the very least, the Duterte administration obviously failed to protect these citizens from the death squads that appear to freely roam despite military and police checkpoints. Surely, Filipinos —like Porquia who was last seen in Iloilo distributing relief aid to indigents, like Echanis who government negotiators personally know as a competent and principled consultant, and like Alvarez who assisted farmers and lawyers in their legal work — all deserve protection guaranteed by law. Sadly, they were not protected.
Moreover, while the Duterte administration worked with lightning speed to pardon and set the stage for a convicted murderer’s freedom, nothing has come out of police investigations into the murders of Porquia, Echanis, and Alvarez.
The traditional anti-crime advocates who approve of strong police action against crimes have been mum about the political killings. This is not surprising since some of the anti-crime advocates have been appointed to positions of power in the Duterte administration.
One common thread connects all or almost all victims of political killings under Duterte: Victims have been previously subjected to red-tagging. They were falsely accused of being members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, purportedly as a pretext to legitimize their murders. Facebook Pages of local police units publish posters online, branding and labelling them as enemies of the state. The social media posts and statements spoken by military, police, and even political leaders have become the modern-day version of the “order of battle,” a phrase familiar to those who fought or survived martial law and dictatorship.
Duterte promised change, including bringing justice to the victims of previous administrations. But he has arguably added to the list of victims. The number of victims of “Tokhang” could surpass the capacity some of the country’s biggest arenas. Duterte has not brought justice to victims of extrajudicial killings and summary executions that happened under the previous administrations.
Upon assuming his post, the new chief of the Philippine National Police declared that there have been no extrajudicial killings in the country. This is unsurprising because the government and the police claim that tens of thousands of Filipinos died fighting back in legitimate police operations. He would like us to forget about teenager Kian delos Santos who the court said was killed by the police, and many other defenseless persons gunned down in the drug war.
September 14 is a good day to ask the new police chief to investigate, apprehend, disband, and charge the death squads that continue to roam freely with or without lockdowns. How can the police not catch these murderers when the military and police are implementing night-long curfews and setting up checkpoints all over the country?
Surely, the families and friends of Porquia, Echanis, and Alvarez would be participating in the September 14 Global Day of Action. Ditto for those of the many other victims of summary executions and political killings since 2016.
I hope you participate too. We will be in good company.
The national organizers of the September 14 Global Day of Action are: the human rights alliance Karapatan, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, 350.org Pilipinas, and the church-based Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines.
International groups backing the mass actions are: Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the International Network for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development, the Asia Pacific Network of Environment Defenders, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty, and the World Organization Against Torture.
Why September 14? It is the day the United Nations Human Rights Council convenes for its 45th session. The Philippines is a member of the council.
If left unchallenged, the officials of the Duterte administration set to represent the country in the UNHRC would be able to downplay and airbrush the facts before the world community. Would you allow that to happen?
Join the September 14 Global Day of Action. Speak up for the victims, expose the death squads freely roaming the land.