Since assuming office as the Philippines’ president in 2016, Rodrigo Duterte has carried out a “firm hand” method against crime and drugs leading to thousands of deaths. These killings of mostly urban poor dwellers have been instigated by the government’s senior officials that could amount to crimes against humanity. This year, a prosecutor from the International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced the opening of preliminary examination on Duterte’s “war on drugs” as a ruthless policy to be put on trial.
‘Man of action’ Duterte has failed to apply the human rights safeguards included in the constitution. Gone is the rule of law to abate the suffering, or compensate those affected by abuses of power.
For rights advocates and freedom fighters, the name in particular is synonymous with a macho-fascist, tyrannical, and dictator. No wonder, some even label Duterte as the “No. 1 terrorist in the Philippines.”
Marie Boti of International Women Alliance said, “The President of the Philippines himself called on the military to ¨shoot women rebels in the vagina!¨ This encouragement for violence against women only further exposes this president as a misogynistic fascist, a continuous violator of human rights with no respect for the rights and welfare of women.”
She added, “Imagine if you are an activist, a woman, and accused of being a rebel – what this means if you are arrested. What treatment you can expect from law enforcement? Rape and abuse and other violations of your basic human rights. This is what is happening in the Philippines today.”
The issue of land has remained a political hot potato given that much of the country’s arable land remains in the hands of bureaucrat-capitalists, with a large number of the peasants, mostly indigenous are internally displaced. Filipino farmers have been constantly under threat by the state drumming up all-out war in the countryside. This has translated to extra-judicial killings, drone strikes and aerial bombings, illegal arrests, and trumped-up charges because of the criminalization of dissent. These attacks on the most vulnerable sections of Philippine society have even posed as one of the biggest risks to the archipelago’s food security.
Carl Michael Cortes of Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights added, “This is evident in the mass arrests of banana plantation workers in Compostela Valley, Mindanao, peddled by the Philippine army as surrendered members of the NPA [New People’s Army]. Since Rodrigo Duterte’s taking power, 22 union activists have already been killed.”
Just this past Thursday, a thirty year old farmer in Hacienda Joefred, central Philippines, was working in the fields when he was shot with an M16 at daybreak. He is the 21st victim of extrajudicial killing in Negros island. Under Duterte, there were 123 extrajudicial killings, 404 fabricated charges among activists to set him alight in a case in international headlines. Had some peasants not allied with other oppressed sectors to take extraordinary measures in protecting themselves and the lands they live off, violence could have ended in larger numbers of murder.
Doug Booker of Ontario Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (OCHRP) said, “Duterte’s approach to the Lumad seems to be more of the disease to cure the patient. He is prescribing military occupation and more foreign investment as the cure. This is precisely what Indigenous people have been struggling against. Martial Law will simply intensify the process resulting in more repression and the killing of more activists.It is ludicrous for Canada to throw fuel on the fire with arms sales to this regime.”
What hasn’t helped in the atrocious atmosphere has been the killing of peace talks between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and Government of the Philippines. There have been high hopes for genuine change despite the riveting tirades, colorful histrionics, and sexist remarks since Duterte took office. Four rounds of talks that were briskly held had further raised expectations for the prospects of finally achieving a just peace. But the negotiations have collapsed after Malacañang signed Proclamation 360 on November 23rd, 2017. This move has been seen as the justification for the martial law extension in Mindanao in the government’s bid to defeat Daesh-linked extremists and Asia`s longest-running civil war.
Christabelle Talaro of Anakbayan Montreal said, “As first and second-generation youth living in Canada, we will continue to fight for the human rights of our people in the Philippines, and those residing anywhere else in the world. No matter where we are, and where we go, our roots will always be entangled with our native land. Our people have suffered long enough. How could we stay silent now?”
Unless the unfair land ownership patterns and economic exclusion are addressed, many Filipinos do not only share the “destructive politicking” at the least, but the climate of impunity without “courage and compassion” persists. It is glaringly evident that Duterte’s dictatorial delusion deprives of life.
Renz Grospe, Co-Chairperson of Filipino youth group Anakbayan-Canada said, “The Duterte regime is not content with waging war against the Filipino people through its anti-drug campaign and counter-insurgency program. It is also burdening Filipinos with his anti-poor policies. Under the new tax reform law, prices of basic commodities and public services have skyrocketed. The jeepney modernization scheme aims to privatize public transport, which would result into massive job loss among jeepney drivers and would burden commuters with fare hike. These anti-people policies unmasked President Duterte’s real nature–a pro-oligarch and fascist dictator.”
Bob McElhinney of the United Church of Canada said “On the one hand, our [Canadian] International Trade Minister [François-Philippe] Champagne has announced plans for creating an Extractive Ombudsperson’s Office to challenge the misbehaviour of Canadian Mining Companies operating abroad. It seems the government has finally come to realize that we have a real problem on our hands. But on the other hand, we have the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Position on Mining and Declaration of Mining Free Zones. This Position says this about the Philippines Mining Act of 1995. «We support the Phil. Mining Act of 1995 being maintained in its present form as a most progressive and also a world-leading regulating framework for environmentally and socially responsible mining.»”
To which Aiyanas Ormond of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS) in Canada remarked, “We also need to hold Canadian corporations, especially mining companies who are complicit in, and profit from these human rights violations accountable.”
He added “This is a really urgent time for us to show solidarity with the Filipino people. These are folks who are on the front lines of the fight for social and economic justice in our world and now is the time to show our solidarity by talking about the situation in the Philippines and organizing our communities, unions, and faith groups to take a stand.
The Canada campaign to Stop the Killings in the Philippines is a call for all human rights organizations and peace advocates in Canada to join our ranks in upholding peoples’ rights in the Philippines. We demand the Canadian government to withdraw financial, political and military support for the US-Duterte regime’s wars against the Filipino people including the so-called war on drugs, martial law in Mindanao and counterinsurgency.