Government told: Stop killing our youth!

Amid the controversy of the P1,000 [$20] budget approved by the House of Representatives for the Commission of Human Rights, Stop the Killings Network emphasized the rights body’s mandate to protect the rights of the people from abuse by state agents such as the government, police and military.

“Stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit,” quoted Fr. Dionito Cabillas of Stop the Killings Network.

Stop the Killings Network pushed the CHR “to pursue its mandate despite vilification by the president and vindication by the pork-barrel hungry congressmen.”

The CHR was criticized by congressmen and President Rodrigo Duterte for speaking out on war on drugs killings, but not speaking up against non-state actors such as the New People’s Army (NPA) who they said violates rights of the police and military. Other allies of the president criticized the CHR for not speaking out against the human rights violations of the previous Benigno Aquino III administration, who is being linked as an ally of CHR’s current chairperson Chito Gascon.

“The most valid criticism of the CHR would be when they do not act or speak on on the human rights violations perpetrated by state agents, especially in light of successive youth killings. Because, who speaks and stands up for the people if the government is their rights’ violator? Even the vulnerable sector’s organizations are vilified as maka-kaliwa [left-leaning] as if that’s any insult, or militante [militant] like how the ISIS is being described internationally, or accused as NPA fronts. The people are left to fend for themselves. Why then would we be surprised when the national minorities turn to pangayaw [tribal war] or when the peasants join the NPA,” asserted Fr. Cabillas.

Fr. Cabillas said the CHR would also do well to work by Karapatan’s example, who he says “has unequivocally and consistently responded to human rights violations committed by the state, earning their work with arguably the most comprehensive human rights data in the country, with human rights workers from the grassroots reporting 24/7.” Karapatan is an independent rights group.

Fascism and impunity

In time for the burial of the 19-year old Grade 6 Lumad student Obello Bay-ao in Davao del Norte on September 14, Sandugo and Save Our Schools Network led some 1,000 national minorities in a funeral march protest to Mendiola in Manila.

Portrait of Obello Bay-ao by visual artist Melvin Pollero.
Portrait of Obello Bay-ao by visual artist Melvin Pollero.

Protesters who joined the funeral march protest for Bay-ao decried the killings of youth in urban and rural areas, while they condemn the “policy of killings of the Duterte government” which they said is “the making of a dictator regime.”

Sandugo, the national alliance of Moro and indigenous peoples, held the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) responsible for coddling paramilitary groups and mercenary killers.

They said the AFP’s 10th ID in Mindanao immediately absolved cousins Joven and Ben Salangani and denied their involvement in the killing of Obillo Bay-ao, despite the accounts of witnesses. Both are members of the Alamara, a lumad paramilitary group which receives training and military support from the AFP. The Alamara paramilitary group and CAFGU have been linked to the numerous cases of killing and harassment of Lumad students, their parents and teachers as well as community leaders.

For the past few weeks, the nation was shocked with news of killings of victims who have not yet reached the prime of their lives. Obello Bay-ao, 19, was of the same age Carl Angelo Arnaiz, and was 2 years older than Kian delos Santos. The youngest among them was Reynaldo De Guzman, 14 years old.

Protesters noted that in the cases of the killings of minors and youth, although they lived in different areas and were killed in uniquely different circumstances, they had a few distinct similarities: All died before they reached 20 years old and all three were killed by state forces.

Sandugo encouraged everyone to speak out against the “fascism and impunity” perpetrated by the government. They also called on the people to join the protest rally on September 21, commemorating the 45th anniversary of Martial Law.


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