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Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Opinion -

The cir­cum­stances of Nene Ba­dayos death, co­or­di­na­tor of Kara­p­atan Cen­tral Visayas, is now re­vealed. She was part of a 30-mem­ber fact find­ing mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in Bayawan City, Ne­gros Ori­en­tal when mo­tor­cy­cle rid­ing men shot at them killing her and farmer Elio­te­rio Mo­rales last Novem­ber 28, 2017 at 2:45 pm while they were on the high­way. A third ca­su­alty, CJ Matarlo, was crit­i­cally in­jured. Months prior, a spate of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings tar­get­ing Leftist ac­tivists in the prov­ince of Ne­gros Ori­en­tal have been doc­u­mented par­tic­u­larly in Gui­hul­ngan.

In Min­danao, newly-formed hu­man rights on­line por­tal, the Min­danao Ob­ser­va­tory of Hu­man Rights, has recorded a spate of sim­i­lar at­tacks against hu­man rights de­fend­ers and lead­ers of indige­nous and peas­ant or­ga­ni­za­tions in­volved in hu­man rights work. UCCP Pas­tor and lo­cal leader of the Kilu­sang Mag­bubukid ng Pilip­inas, Per­fecto Hoyle, was shot gunned down out­side his home in Barangay Can­away, Kitcharao, Agu­san del Norte last Novem­ber 17, 2017. Staff mem­ber of an EU-funded hu­man rights project im­ple­mented by the Ru­ral Mis­sion­ar­ies of the Philip­pines has also re­ported harassment and in­tim­i­da­tion from those who iden­ti­fied them­selves as state se­cu­rity agents. Ban­waon leader part­ner­ing with the same EU-funded hu­man rights project is now in jail for trumped-up charges to­gether with five other mem­bers of their indige­nous or­ga­ni­za­tion, Tag­duma­han.

Over at Com­postela Val­ley, lead­ers of the lo­cal peas­ant or­ga­ni­za­tion are be­ing tar­geted, the lat­est be­ing Ro­drigo Ti­mo­teo of Barangay Mam­busao, Com­postela who was shot dead last Novem­ber 29, 2017. He is only the lat­est among those ex­e­cuted in the same man­ner among peas­ant lead­ers in Com­postela Val­ley and else­where.

The blood trail now ex­tends from Min­danao to the Visayas with re­ports of sim­i­lar atroc­i­ties in the North re­port­edly tar­get­ing and vil­i­fy­ing women ac­tivists. All of th­ese indi­cate not just the shrink­ing demo­cratic space in the coun­try but a state of de facto mar­tial rule where ac­tivists who fight for peas­ant and indige­nous peo­ples’ rights are felled usu­ally by hooded as­sas­sins, in­car­cer­ated un­der trumped-up charges, or threat­ened of bod­ily harm in­clud­ing that of their loved ones.

Th­ese trou­bling events oc­cur in the con­text of the col­lapse of the peace talks of the gov­ern­ment with the CPP-NPA-NDF and Pres­i­dent Duterte un­leash­ing the dogs of war against what he calls as le­gal fronts of the armed com­mu­nist group. In an un­prece­dented ver­bal at­tack from the ir­re­press­ible pres­i­dent, he threat­ened to ar­rest mem­bers of ac­tivist or­ga­ni­za­tions in a pub­lic fo­rum. It was tan­ta­mount to a ver­bal order that we can only see ex­ac­er­bat­ing the spike in state-sanc­tioned mur­ders and other hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions.

Un­der present Philip­pine laws, it is not a crime to wield any type of po­lit­i­cal be­lief, even ma­ligned and mis­un­der­stood con­vic­tions such as com­mu­nism are pro­tected by the Con­sti­tu­tion. It is un­der this demo­cratic prin­ci­ple that pro­gres­sive groups should be left alone and even de­fended by State forces.

But Duterte’s re­cent pro­nounce­ments coun­ters this demo­cratic prin­ci­ple by ver­bally re­mov­ing the dis­tinc­tion be­tween armed bel­liger­ent groups and those they per­ceive to be sym­pa­thetic mem­bers of or­ga­ni­za­tions usu­ally at the fore­front of hu­man rights work. His state­ments ac­tu­ally put in harm’s way thou­sands of free­domlov­ing ac­tivists that he has now la­beled ef­fec­tively as dis­si­dents thereby made fair game to death squads all over. Para­mil­i­tary groups and mil­i­tary as­sas­sins such as the ones sus­pected to have killed Nene Ba­dayos in Ne­gros Ori­en­tal and Pas­tor Hoyle in Agu­san del Norte are now given the li­cense by no less than Duterte to con­tinue with their killing spree.

This de­vel­op­ment fi­nally ex­poses as a sham the democ­racy that Duterte and his mil­i­tary men are sup­pos­edly pro­tect­ing and up­hold­ing. The frag­ile elite-led Philip­pine State wlll al­ways find re­course and sup­port from its’ re­pres­sive pow­ers de­spite pre­ten­sions of be­ing a strong mod­ern democ­racy. The con­tin­u­ous deaths of ac­tivists and peas­ant as well as indige­nous lead­ers strug­gling for so­cial and eco­nomic rights in the hands of pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions and now in what is turn­ing out to be the bru­tal dic­ta­to­rial regime of Duterte are all in­con­tro­vert­ible ev­i­dences of this two-faced na­ture of the kind of democ­racy that is ac­tu­ally in prac­tice.

In a na­tion that re­mains em­broiled in a civil war that was started more than a hun­dred years ago by An­dres Boni­fa­cio at the cusp of the Filipino na­tion’s birth and con­tin­ues to this day in our vi­o­lent nar­ra­tive of na­tion-build­ing, his­tory had al­ways left an op­tion for those fight­ing for the demo­cratic rights of the most op­pressed sec­tors but given lit­tle choice. In­stead of be­ing gunned down by cow­ardly as­sas­sins act­ing at the be­hest of their elite prin­ci­pals, many have opted to dis­ap­pear to the hills, where at least, amongst their kind, they get to pull the trig­ger first.

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