Philippines Rights Groups: 9 Activists Killed in ‘Bloody Sunday’ Raids

Nonoy Espina and Jojo Rinoza
Bacolod and Dagupan, Philippines
2021-03-07
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Philippines Rights Groups: 9 Activists Killed in ‘Bloody Sunday’ Raids Members of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, gather in Misamis Oriental province, May 2, 2016.
Froilan Gallardo/BenarNews

Updated at 2:25 p.m. ET on 03-07-2021

At least nine activists were killed and six others arrested in a series of morning raids in four provinces near the Philippine capital, just days after the president ordered officers to kill communist rebels, rights groups said in what is being called a “Bloody Sunday.”

The raids in Rizal, Batangas, Laguna and Cavite provinces were the latest in what authorities call Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operations (SEMPO) – dragnets involving massive troop deployments. 

“Nothing could be more apt than calling this day a ‘Bloody Sunday,’” said Cristina Palabay, leader of the Filipino rights group Karapatan. “The fascist Duterte regime spares no day in its murderous campaign of state terror with the arrests and killings of labor leaders, organizers, activists and human rights workers.”

The deadly raids came two days after President Rodrigo Duterte, speaking in the southern city of Cagayan de Oro, issued orders for security forces to end the rebellion which began in 1969. He made the announcement during a meeting focusing on ending the communist insurgency.

“I’ve told the military and the police that if they find themselves in an armed encounter with the communist rebels, kill them, make sure you really kill them, and finish them off if they are alive,” he said.

On Sunday, Duterte’s spokesman did not respond when asked by BenarNews for comment on the killings.

5 victims identified                                

Michael Dasigao and Mark Lee Coros Bacasno, who work with the urban poor group Sikkad Montalban, were killed Sunday during police operations in the town of Rodriguez, the human rights alliance Karapatan said. 

In Cavite province, Manny Asuncion, coordinator of the provincial chapter of the leftist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Nationalist Alliance) died in the police raid on the office of the workers’ union group, according to activists. Photos released by the labor group May First Movement showed streaks of blood indicating that Asuncion’s body may have been dragged from the second floor down a flight of stairs to the ground floor.

The bodies of Ariel Evangelista and his wife, Chai Lemita, leaders of a local fishermen’s organization, were found in a funeral parlor in the town of Nasugbu hours after police raided their home, according to Palabay.

“Their 10-year-old son reportedly hid under a bed and witnessed the killing of his parents,” Palabay said.

Activists said four others were killed, but their names were not released. In addition, six were arrested, including a paralegal for Karapatan, Nimfa Lanzanas, 61, while nine others remained at large, according to authorities.

Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., an Army division commander and spokesman for a task force whose mission is to end the communist insurgency, told Reuters news service that the raids were “legitimate law enforcement operations,” based on search warrants for firearms and explosives.

“As usual these groups are so quick in assuming that the subjects were activists and that they were killed. If (the) motive was to kill them, they should all be dead but there were those who did not resist arrest so they were collared,” Parlade said.

Responding to the Sunday raids, the Communist Party of the Philippines ordered its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA) to “mobilize its units to help secure the people being persecuted and hunted down by the fascist regime.”

“Targets of Duterte’s state terrorism can be absorbed by NPA units or provided safe haven within the NPA’s guerrilla base areas,” it said in a statement.

The NPA “must take the initiative to carry out tactical offensives to punish the perpetrators and masterminds of these crimes,” the CPP said.

It also called on “friends of the Filipino people abroad to condemn and help expose the brutal attacks and the Duterte regime’s growing list of fascist crimes.”    

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), expressed concern about the raids, saying they appear to be a coordinated effort by authorities.

“These incidents are clearly part of the government’s increasingly brutal counter-insurgency campaign aimed at eliminating the 52-year-old Communist insurgency. The fundamental problem is this campaign no longer makes any distinction between armed rebels and noncombatant activists, labor leaders and rights defenders,” he said in a statement.

“The Philippines government should act now to investigate the use of the lethal force in these raids, stop the mayhem and killings that have gone hand-in-hand with the practice of red-tagging, and respect the rights of Filipinos to exercise their civil and political right, and dissent,” he said.

As part of red-tagging, the military names groups or individuals as being supporters of communist rebels, or as insurgents themselves involved with alleged legal fronts for the CPP and NPA.

Broken peace talks

Since Duterte broke off talks with the rebels waging the 52-year communist insurgency in November 2017, scores of left-wing activists, including lawyers, peasants, indigenous people and members of religious groups have died.

A recent incident occurred on Dec. 30, 2020, in Tapaz, a municipality on Panay island, which led to the deaths of nine leaders of the indigenous Tumandok people, including elected local officials, and the arrest of 17 others. 

In late February, police in the Cordillera region, the country’s northern highlands, released a resolution to undertake “tokhang” operations to convince leftists, including those in media and government, to cease their alleged support for rebels. Cordillera police chief R’win Pagkalinawan recently said a list of 300 leftists would be released by the end of the month.

Tokhang, coined from the Visayan words for “knock” and “beg,” is a police campaign to convince drug dealers and users to surrender and quit. The practice has come to be associated with killings in Duterte’s “war on drugs.” 

Police in late 2020 said nearly 8,000 suspected drug dealers and addicts had been killed since Duterte took office in 2016 and launched the drug war while rights groups and activists have said thousands more could have been killed.

Froilan Gallardo in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, contributed to this report.

Danny Lachica Pamuceno,ZSB.
Danny Lachica Pamuceno,ZSB. says:
Apr 09, 2021 12:51 AM

Rodrigo Roa Duterte got the first ever highest approval rating for a Philippine President bcoz of his unique style of leadership..
No matter what,the Pilipino people must solely decide for the country ,no foriegn individual or group has moral authority to speak in behalf of the filipino nation..

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