On August 8, 2018, human rights defender and Rise Up-Cebu volunteer Butch Rosales, 42, was shot in broad daylight while inside a jeepney. Rosales was on his way to Mandaue, Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City. He boarded a multicab jeepney and sat at the front passenger seat while the assailant sat at the back. The gunman shot Rosales at the head several times and took off on a waiting getaway motorcycle driven by another man; the perpetrators did not wear masks.
Rise Up for Life and for Rights, or Rise Up, is a network of volunteers and rights defenders committed to work in the defense of life and protection of human rights against drug-related extrajudicial killings and violations.
“With the rising number of killings conducted with impunity in Cebu, Rosales was killed in the same manner that suspected drug users have been killed in the conduct of the Duterte regime’s drug war. This case reveals the brazenness of perpetrators – a result of the assurances given by the regime to these killers and the prevailing impunity that lingers after the killings,” Palabay noted.
Palabay also cited the recent harassment against rights defenders from Bicol. On August 1, a post from Facebook page “Ang Aking Bayan” released a “wanted” poster bearing the names and images of former Bayan Muna representatives Teddy Casiño and Satur Ocampo, former Gabriela representative and National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Secretary Liza Maza, and former Anakpawis representative and former Department of Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael Mariano – all respondents to trumped-up murder charges filed 10 years ago at a Nueva Ecija court. The said poster also showed Alfredo Mansus of Bayan-Albay, Ramon Rescovilla of Piston Bicol, Dan Balucio of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), and Vince Casilihan of Karapatan.
The wanted poster indicated that those in the pictures were wanted for violating the Republic Act No. 10168, or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.
“This is a concerted operation to condition the mind of the public that those in the posters are criminals. Such desperate and malicious ploys are manned and paid for by government fanatics who refuse to see the light of day. The proliferation of these Facebook pages tasked to vilify progressive leaders are similar to the DOJ’s proscription petition, except the latter is more formal, done by government officials, while the former is concealed by anonymity. Both, however, have no basis,” said Palabay.
“We condemn the brutal killing of Rosales and the harassment of progressive leaders and rights defenders from Bicol. We are confronted with a situation where the government’s repression is surreptitiously permitted by similar repressive laws. In other words, the Duterte regime is making it legal to violate and bypass people’s civil and political rights. Whether it be in the war on drugs or in counterinsurgency operations, gross rights violations continue unabated,” concluded Palabay.