Groups gear up for more protests vs Duterte’s ‘rising dictatorship’

By Kathy Yamzon | Manila Today

In light of recent arrests and trumped-up charges of individuals as part of President Duterte’s crackdown against legal progressive groups, members of various people’s organizations launched the Metro Manila formation of the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) today at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila.

National Union of People’s Lawyers Chairperson Atty. Neri Colmenares gave a keynote speech on “escalating anti-people policies’” being implemented by the Duterte government, which the group said “were clear signs of a tyrannical and dictatorial rule”.

Movement Against Tyranny Metro Manila also slammed Duterte’s recent “attacks” against personalities, institutions and groups critical to the administration. They see these moves as part of Duterte’s political crackdown threat against the Left and progressive groups, whom he declared as legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.

The anti-tyranny group cited the railroading of the constituent assembly and charter change in Congress; curtailment of press freedom by silencing Rappler and other media groups; rebirth of the bloody Oplan Tokhang; rising cases of political killings and rights abuses; arrest of National Democratic Front of the Philippines consultant Rafael Baylosis; kick-out threats against UP students who staged walk-out protests; filing of trumped-up charges against activists; and the filing of cases against leaders of the anti-ASEAN protests as a “gross display of Dutert’s tyranny and rising dictatorship”.

Families of the victims of Oplan Tokhang, relatives of political prisoners, and a survivor of the Tokhang-style counter-insurgency operations in Eastern Visayas were also present at the MAT Metro Manila gathering and shared stories under “Duterte’s reign of terror”.

“President Duterte seems to be disillusioned in thinking that he can silence the growing dissent and clamor against his tyrannical and dictatorial rule by implementing his iron fist to the Filipino people,” said Amirah Lidasan, spokesperson and lead convenor of MAT Metro Manila.

Tokhang-style counter-insurgency ops bared

During the program, a member of a peasant group from Eastern Visayas exposed that the 20th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is now using Oplan Tokhang to commence its crackdown against legal activists.

“We are activists with legitimate causes. We are not drug peddlers, but no one deserves to be killed under Tokhang, either,” said Elsa Raymundo, 59, leader of Northern Samar Small Farmers’ Association (NSSFA).

Raymundo told those present at the gathering that she personally experienced the spate of harassment incidents and rights violations committed by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in her province in the guise of anti-narcotics operations.

According to her, elements of the 20th IB, along with their intelligence assets, visited her home in Las Navas town, started convincing her to present herself to the military as an NPA surrenderee so she can claim cash rewards. Unswayed with the huge sum of money offered by the military, Raymundo refused to do comply. That was when a flurry of death threats were used by the soldiers against Raymundo.

“I can still vividly recall when they said that if I will be consistent in refusing to do as they say, I will be next on their hit list, as Tokhang will be their new tool against us farmers,” shared Raymundo.

She said, “Contrary to the strong and tough image President Duterte flaunts, the present government must actually be so weak that the people who only use their principles, convictions and unity would be retaliated with by his government with summary killings. He is a coward!”

“This government cannot bow us down as we remain unfazed and determined to oppose Duterte’s draconian and Marcosian style of leadership. He must brace himself for more protests and mass actions in the days to come,” said Lidasan.