Arming the virus and the law – Duterte’s state terrorism


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During nearly two months of being locked inside our homes due to a nationwide lockdown, the only political interactions we had were online. Suara Bangsamoro and her network organizations have organized online forums to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has been used by the Philippine government as a weapon against the people.

The COVID-19 pandemic is every tyrant’s dream, to finally have a justification to implement the most repressive measures against his people, allegedly to contain the still incurable new virus.

According to Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, governments have committed some of the worst human rights violations, including the arbitrary detention of people who have violated lockdown; censorship to stifle criticism of government slowness and incompetence; harassment and intimidation of activists and professionals who campaign for the right to information and freedom of expression; mass surveillance and violation of people’s right to privacy and discrimination.

Human rights experts and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have warned governments to avoid going too far with security measures such as obtaining emergency powers in their response to the coronavirus outbreak. But governments continue to use fascist measures against the people.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte began by appointing military generals to the national task force to fight COVID-19. His orders to “shoot them” have led to cases where police have shot and killed suspected lockdown violators. Residents accused of violating curfews, lockdowns and simply forgetting to wear face masks have been subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, and even torture.

What was concerning in the first two months of battling the pandemic was how President Duterte slowly equated the COVID-19 virus with the Communist movement in the Philippines. He said the armed communist movement was a nuisance and accused them of preventing relief from reaching affected rural communities. The “legal fronts”, on the other hand, were the hardest hit as the National Task Force to End Local Communist Activities (NTF-ELCAC) marked all progressive popular organizations, including Suara Bangsamoro, red on their page. Facebook.

During the first month of national lockdown, leaders of popular organizations and human rights defenders were either red-marked, killed and illegally arrested. While unilateral government and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) ceasefires were in place, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) launched airstrikes and military ground operations, resulting in massive displacement of people. communities, mainly Moro and Lumad communities.

According to human rights group Karapatan and Barug Katungod Mindanao, AFP launched airstrikes in Mabini, Davao de Oro on the day the government announced its unilateral ceasefire. On March 27, fighter jets and attack helicopters were used to bomb Lumad communities in Bukidnon. On May 12, two fighter planes dropped four bombs in Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. The military threw leaflets from helicopters into rural communities. The leaflets contained statements that red-labeled their organizations and messages to “return to the fold, lest they be infected with COVID-19.”

In the regions of Moro, military airstrikes and mortar fire were carried out in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sulu, supposedly to flush out “terrorist” organizations such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Group Abu Sayyaf (ASG). Throughout the fasting month of Ramadan, military operations in Datu Saudi Ampatuan municipality in Maguindanao resulted in more than 6,000 people being evacuated.

On May 24, the day we celebrated Eid’l Fitr inside our homes, two girls from Maguindanao province were killed due to mortar fire from a nearby military camp in Bgy. . Elian, Saudi Datu Ampatuan. Aslamiya and Asnaida Tambak were injured by shrapnel from at least four mortar shells that hit the Amai Zailon community, Bgy Kitango. Their mother and younger brother were among the fourteen relatives who were injured and rushed to the regional hospital.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippine government, along with other ASEAN countries, has stocked up on military arsenal by purchasing new equipment. An article in the Manila Times by Armado S. Tolentino Jr. described how the ten member countries embarked on military procurement and weapons development programs as the rest of the population battled COVID-19 .

According to the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), the US State Department has announced its two arms sales to President Duterte for a total amount of $ 2 billion. The arms sales include 12 attack helicopters, hundreds of missiles and warheads, guidance and detection systems, machine guns and more than 80,000 cartridges – to be used in the fight against terrorism.

The $ 2 billion US-RP arms deal anger not only human rights organizations and peace activists, but especially your Moro brothers and sisters and the rest of the people of Mindanao because we know it will be used against us again, destroy our communities and lead to more human rights violations.

To top it off, at the end of the enhanced community quarantine, President Duterte certified as urgent the passage of Senate Bill 1083 and House Bill 6875 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which is an amendment to the Human Security Act of 2007.

Armed with the virus, arms sales and the law, President Rodrigo Duterte’s state terrorism is on the move. (davaotoday.com)

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Thelma J. Longworth

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