As Christians around the world are into the week-long solemn celebration of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, armed minions of Duterte government continue to unleash its iron fist against activists, human rights defenders, political opposition and on the Filipino people asserting their rights for food, health services and economic relief in the midst of renewed strict implementation of community lockdown due to rising COVID19 cases. These horrifying events are preceded by killings of those who resisted arrests as claimed by the raiding teams in various provinces in the Philippines.
The series of arrests this Holy Week on trumped charges of leaders from BAYAN (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan), KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno), KMP (Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas) and AGML (Alyansa ng Magbubukid ng Gitnang Luzon) in Central Luzon are made possible through the search and arrest warrants issued by judicial courts implemented by police and military personnel who stormed the houses and offices of these legitimate non-government organizations. However, these concerned organizations claimed that the evidences found during the raids were planted.
The arrest of leaders of progressive peoples’ organizations in Central Luzon are also the same pattern of illegal searches on offices and houses and illegal arrests of leaders and activists in Negros and Panay islands in the Visayas; Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Rizal provinces in Southern Luzon; Cagayan Valley in North Luzon; and Cagayan de Oro City and Caraga Region in Mindanao to name a few. Even leaders of human rights defenders Karapatan, lawyers, progressive lawmakers and members of religious groups and worst the judge who dismissed the case of arrested and detained journalist on trumped up charges are not spared from this vicious attacks allegedly orchestrated by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict under the command of President Duterte.
For us Christians, Holy Week is not only a solemn celebration on how Jesus subdue the power of evil and death and his resurrection. It is also a time to reflect on why Jesus was falsely accused and sentenced to die by the people in power during his time. For in the midst of the people’s economic suffering and political exclusion, Jesus gave the poor the hope and the power to achieve abundant life. “The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy: I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).
The works of these activists and leaders such as serving the needy; advocating for the rights of the marginalized sectors for food, land, shelter and jobs; community organizing for community development are very close to the heart of Jesus. These activists and human rights defenders are like the disciples sent by Jesus in our contemporary time: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples,‘the harvest is plentiful but the workers is few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field’.” (Matt. 9:35-38)
These activist and leaders knew by heart that like the disciples who were reminded by Jesus, they will also suffer persecution. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world,it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. If they persecute me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15: 18-20)
The activists and leaders of progressive peoples’ organization that were arrested and those who were killed under Duterte regime are truly servants of the people. Their bravery and willingness to take whatever the cost of the struggle for social change are manifested in the likes of murdered Dandy Miguel of PAMANTIK-KMU in Southern Tagalog who in the midst of death threats received, unselfishly continued to advance the noble cause of genuine trade unionism; worthy to note also is Barangay Chair Julie Catamin who was murdered by motorcycle riding in tandem when she exposed the truth on the planting of evidence by police and military forces during the raids on houses of Tumandok leaders in Panay island in December 2020.
The courageous activists in the Philippines, may have been illegally arrested and detained on trumped up charges in the eyes of a selective and manipulated justice system of the powers-that-be in the Philippines and worst disappeared or killed by state security forces, but for the Filipino people these activists and leaders of progressive peoples’ organizations are the true servants of the people.
Migrante-Europe calls on the Filipino people around the world to unite with our kababayans in the Philippines in their struggle for the rights to food, jobs shelter and equal access to health services, freedom and national democracy and for immediate support on economic relief, free mass testing and free vaccine for all.
Migrante-Europe appeals to the United Nations, the European Union and other international bodies promoting human rights and shared democratic values to condemn the intensifying repression and hold accountable the Duterte government of blatant human rights violations against the Filipino people.
Enough of state repression and fascist rule! Enough of Duterte!
Makibaka! Huwag Matakot!
Fr Herbert Fadriquela
31 March 2021