MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte administration seems to have its hands full with the so-called war against illegal drugs. Just recently President Duterte himself announced another six months to curb the drug problem.
“Just give me a little extension of maybe of another six months. Because I never have the idea of the hundreds of thousands of people in the drug business,” the president said during the presentation to the media of freed Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad in Davao City.
“The problem is I cannot kill them all,” Duterte continued. “Even if I wanted to, I cannot do it.”
Duterte promised that he is doing his very best to establish order in the country. “We are rocked with so many problems — kidnapping in the south, terrorism, drugs which is really pulling us down. So I say we would need time to put everything in order,” he said.
According to the latest data provided by the Police Regional Office on operation “Double Barrel,” on the 19th of September, as of July 01, 2016 at least 19,117 operations were recorded. So-called “drug personality” killings numbered 1,163 while arrests reached 17,954.
According to the further police data on “Project Tokhang,” the authorities visited 1,075,665 homes while the total of surrenders numbered 715,661. Drug “pushers” on the other hand allegedly numbered 53,101 and drug users 662,560.
These operations were announced by President Duterte before his 100th day in office.
Unfortunately, the president failed in his speech to address a related issue, the increasing number of labor leaders also executed—labor leaders fighting for the right of Filipino workers to live a decent and respectable life.
Last Saturday (17 September), Orlando Abangan, a full time labor organizer and a well known community leader from Talisay, Cebu was gunned down.
Abangan, affectionately known as Ka Lando, was a member of Partido Manggagawa (PM) and an effective leader who organized various trade unions. His dedication and passion for the labor movement paved the way for him to organize poor sectors in the community, including youth and people with disabilities (PWDs).
Based on his talents, Abangan was recruited by the labor center SENTRO to help workers in the informal sector.
Acting Talisay City Police Chief Police Supt. Aileen Recla said that the 35 year old Abangan was on his way home on his motorbike to Sitio Lawis, Barangay Maghaway, around 8AM when the assailant approached and shot him. Police Supt. Recla claims the murder may be related to Abangan’s work as an organizer for the Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).
“His killing creates a chilling effect for all defenders of labor and human rights. We cannot be cowed by this kind of violence but we cannot also take this incident lightly in the face of mass murders committed every day under the government’s ongoing war on drugs,” said PM-Cebu spokesperson Dennis Derige.
The untimely demise of Ka Lando elicited numerous messages of support and calls for justice on social media.
“We condemn the vigilante-style killing of Ka Lando and call on the authorities for a thorough investigation of his murder. Justice for Ka Lando and other victims of extrajudicial killings,” declared Wilson Fortaleza, PM spokesperson.
“Ka Lando Abangan spoke for the workers, the poor and the downtrodden. He spoke against the violation of their rights. Are these his crimes? Human rights violations should be declared crimes against the people,” said Amelita Ebora of Partido Manggagawa, Davao base.
“SENTRO calls on the Duterte administration to stop the terrible wave of extrajudicial killings that has plagued the country. The war on drugs has promoted a culture that is blind to human rights. Clearly, it is now taking its toll on human rights defenders. It has to stop immediately,” SENTRO Secretary General Josua Mata said.
Abangan’s murder is but one among many recent activist and labor killings in the country.
According to comparative data released by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) this year, this administration marks a new high for extrajudicial killings.
Extrajudicial killings (EJKs) during Corazon Aquino’s term as President of the Republic of the Philippines from 1986 to June of 1992 numbered 21.
During the presidency of Fidel V. Ramos from July 1992 to June 1998 these killings numbered 11.
During the Joseph Estrada presidency from July 1998 to January of 2001 extrajudicial killings totaled 6.
During Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term from January 2001 to June 2010 83 of these killings were recorded, including the Maguindanao massacre.
During the term of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III from July 2010 to May 2016 EJKs totaled 31.
The alleged number of extrajudicial killings to date during the presidency of Rodrigo Roa Duterte is already at 1,163 and counting.
Will the facts around Ka Lando’s killing remain buried under this mass of summary murders?
Will the President pay attention to the senseless and gruesome killings, above all against the poor and working class?
When will the President awaken and guarantee justice for the unlawfully killed, especially for those whose only intention in life was to protect and serve the Filipino people?
After all, Duterte himself swore this very oath as he assumed the Presidency of the Philippine Republic. CPM
In a statement by Billy Kyte, campaigner for the global witness said, “Increasingly, communities that take a stand are finding themselves in the firing line of companies’ private security, state forces and a thriving market for contract killer.” Kyte also added, “For every killing we document, many others go unreported.”