‘tis the Season to Cry with Rage
As many Filipino families started lighting their Christmas trees to celebrate the holiday season, the number of families lighting candles to mourn loved ones who died from senseless killings continue to increase. From alleged drug personalities to human rights defenders.
On December 10, the Filipino people lighted a torch for peace and human rights as various groups marched and held actions in different parts of the nation to express their condemnation of the continuous killings, rights violations and narrowing down of democratic space in the country.
After the transfer of drug operation to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), there seems to be a drop in the number of drug-related killings reported in mainstream media and, yet communities continue to experience the attacks of their tormentors. PDEA reports showed only one drug suspect killed in 2,161 drug operations since it took over in October 2017. But the reality in the ground speaks otherwise.
Last November 23, after the government released the Proclamation 360 declaring the termination of the peace negotiations of government with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), reports of clashes between the military and the NPA resulted into the displacement of communities and families.
We are particularly concerned that the government has abandoned its avowed quest for peace in the declared termination of peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF. And as it stands now it is running berserk at ensuring that these groups are silenced.
Just last week, Fr. Marcelito “Tito” Paez of the Diocese of San Jose, was killed at gunpoint in Jaen, Nueva Ecija hours after helping the release of a political prisoner in Cabanatuan. Fr. Paez was a committed human rights advocate grounded in the experiences of families and communities and actively involved in the cause of the poor.
Several cases more of human rights violations were documented in the provinces as crackdown on the New People’s Army (NPA) by military forces continues. Just last week, religious leader Lovelito Quiñones was killed in a clash between the government troops and suspected NPA rebels in Oriental Mindoro. A young student activist from the University of the Philippines was among the 14 suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels killed during an encounter with the military in Nasugbu, Batangas. Josephine Anne Lapira, 22, also an official of the left-leaning Gabriela Women’s Party is among those killed. The encounter looks ruthless. All killed. The intent to demobilize and arrest them seem nowhere in the consciousness of the assailants. These rights violations committed against civilians, including the church, student and opposition leaders, journalists, artists, musicians and activists are clear indications of this administration’s determination to silence individuals and groups critical of the current dispensation.
Threats to human rights and progressive groups is increasingly alarming. Every day, the democratic space to discuss political and social issues and to demand accountability for human rights violations are becoming narrower for people. False promises, confusing policy pronouncements, and deceptive news are very much like noises that prevent people to discern and eventually assert their rights.
The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc (PMPI), a network of church/religious groups, nongovernment organizations, and people’s organizations, calls on the people to continue to discern and pursue path to peace. We should continue to cry with rage and disgust with the utter disregard of the value of life and the rule of law.
We should demand fair investigations on the series of killings of students, religious, and those victims of drug-related operations. We appeal for the government to uphold the rule of law, listen to the voices of the people who cry for justice, and hope of a better country that recognizes and fulfills every person’s aspiration and dignity.
We need to stand firm and claim our rights.