By Chito Chavez
Human rights group Karapatan claimed there has been no respite in the spate of unlawful killings and illegal arrests in the country, citing the three more cases of extrajudicial killings (EJK) and six victims of illegal arrests in the first two weeks of the year.
Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay was angered by the spate of supposed illegal killings saying “it seems that this government and its salaried mercenaries remain in a killing frenzy, targeting the poor in its twisted and militarist campaigns.
As the year rolls out, Palabay scored the current administration, saying it “continues its grim legacy of outright disregard and scorn for human rights.
With the tough challenges ahead, Palabay noted of the more strenuous uphill climb for the country which has been plunged further by the “psychotic, cruel and spiteful leadership” of the current administration.
Karapatan cited the case of Albert Espenas, a 39-year-old farmer, who was gunned down last January 8 in Barangay Mabunga, San Francisco, Quezon while manning his store.
The assailants allegedly shot him after pretending to buy goods at the victim’s store.
Palabay claimed the killing of Espenas was used by the 85th Infantry Battalion to justify their militarization in San Francisco, Quezon.
Karapatan reported two separate incidents of killing occurred in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental and Sorsogon, Bicol three days later.
In Barangay Bulado, Guihulngan, Remeglo Arquillos, a habal-habal driver was flagged down by armed men while he was transporting two passengers to their destinations.
Based on the accounts of witnesses, Karapatan said Arquillos was ordered to alight from his motorcycle, after which he was shot four times with the assailants fleeing immediately after the incident.
In Bicol, Karapatan said a member of Anakpawis was also shot dead by four motorcycle-riding gunmen while standing near the village hall in Barangay Bato, Bacon, Sorsogon.
The victim, Nicasio Ebio, was 37 years old and was an active member of Anakpawis.
“The victims are poor Filipinos who continue to bear the brunt of Duterte’s fascism. As Duterte continues to spout venomous speeches that stir controversy, this government’s foot soldiers and security forces are continuously training its guns on farmers, fisherfolk, and indigenous peoples. The year 2019 will yield more cases of rights violations as the Duterte regime treads down the path of tyranny. The sites of these killings are where soldiers are littered, and in the past year, these places been among the regions where violations continue incessantly,” said Palabay.
Palabay noted that, as of 2018, there have been 23 political killings in Bicol and 27 in Western Visayas.
In a separate incident on January 14, Karapatan reported that six Kalinga farmers in San Mariano, Isabela were illegally arrested by elements of the 17th Infantry Battalion.
The victims were identified as Espido Tamang, Jojo Tamang, Rodel Infiel, Arjay Zipagan, Tuting Ampa, and Porong Ampa.
According to witnesses and Robert Turino, Barangay Paminan Chairman, Karapatan said the victims were illegally arrested and brought to the military camp in Rogus, Cauyan City.
The military alleged that the farmers were hiding grenades in their nets and baskets, an accusation vehemently disputed by the community.
Due to the immediate and coordinated response of local officials, human rights organizations and members of the community, the victims were eventually released from the military’s camp on the afternoon of January 16, 2019.
“The release of the six farmers proved that much can be gained from collective assertion. Despite the posturing of the military and the viciousness of State fascism, it is the Filipino people who can change the course of this nation steeped in systemic poverty, corruption and rights abuses. If the Duterte regime and its minions are steering the country to deeper crisis, it is the determined action of Filipinos who can drive it towards the direction of genuine change, towards a just and humane society,” concluded Palabay.