2016 was a bloody year for the Filipino people. Since Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency, at least 19 people were killed in the government’s anti-insurgency war under Oplan Bayanihan, according to human rights organization Karapatan.
Victims included four (4) farmers from Central Luzon who were massacred by goons connected with a local politician, two (2) anti-mining activists from Compostela Valley, an urban poor organizer and pedicab driver from Metro Manila, and a pregnant Lumad woman who was killed when a paramilitary group rained down bullets on people attending a wedding feast in Bukidnon.
Almost all of the victims were involved in advancing the right to development of the Filipino people and were active in development work and community organizing. Instead of being seen as partners for change, however, development workers continue to fall prey to the military’s anti-insurgency campaign which brands any form of opposition or dissent as subversive. This attitude prevails despite the ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
In addition, more than 6000 lives were snuffed out in 2016 in the government’s so-called war on drugs. Those killed range from those actually guilty of being involved in the drug trade to an infant who was accidentally hit by bullets to honor-roll students and innocent bystanders. Though we agree with the government that drugs is a serious problem in the country, we do not agree with how it is conducting the campaign to eliminate the drug problem.
Duterte should be reminded that the Filipino people have a collective right to development, and it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that poverty and other root causes of dissent are addressed. We challenge the government to back up all its talk of reducing poverty with concrete actions. Otherwise, all Duterte’s words are simply empty rhetoric.
2016 was a bloody year for the Filipino people, and unless the government addresses the roots causes of dissent, armed conflict and even the drug problem, and unless the government’s new security plan Kapayapaan is no different from the previous Oplan Bayanihan, 2017 promises to be an even bloodier year for the Filipino people. ####
Renmin Crisanta Vizconde