DAVAO CITY — President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat that he will go after groups he accused of being legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) spells “open season” for individuals who are fighting for the poor, a party-list lawmaker said on Sunday.
“The President’s statement is clearly declaring an open season to further justify atrocities against activists and legal mass organizations in the country,” Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao told the Inquirer.
Upon his return from India on Saturday, Mr. Duterte said he would “go after the legal fronts,” referring to groups with alleged ties to the CPP.
The President said these groups were involved in illegal activities like collecting taxes for rebels.
He said he was just waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court on his proclamation branding the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist groups.
Mr. Duterte said the “enemies of the state” could expect the full force of the government because “my orders are really to destroy, to destroy the apparatus.”
More rights abuses seen
Casilao, a townmate of the President, said these pronouncements would worsen human rights violations under the Duterte administration.
He said 126 cases of extrajudicial killings, of which 110 targeted farmers and indigenous people, had taken place since Mr. Duterte became President in 2016.
“By ordering such crackdown, he virtually gives the military, the police and state-sanctioned paramilitary groups the green light to run after members of mass organizations from the city and mostly in poor rural areas,” said the Anakpawis lawmaker.
Casilao said the President was endorsing the commission of human rights violation against the people. “It’s a one step closer move to an open fascist-tyrannical rule.”
He noted that this was not the first time that Mr. Duterte had urged the military to commit human rights violations.
“He wanted to bomb lumad schools accusing it as rebel institution,” Casilao said.
Instead of blaming progressive groups for the insurgency, Casilao said the President could have simply looked at the roots of the social unrest, such as widespread poverty and income inequality in the country.
He said poverty was being worsened by antipoor government programs like the new tax law.
Revive peace talks
Casilao suggested that Mr. Duterte revive peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the CPP.
“It is not too late to reconsider the resumption of the peace talks as it will resolve the root causes of the decadeslong armed conflict,” he added.
The President suspended peace talks with the NDFP in May last year, accusing communist rebels of attacking government forces while holding negotiations.
Last Nov. 23, Mr. Duterte signed Proclamation No. 360 that formally terminated the talks.
Eleven days later, he issued Proclamation No. 374, declaring the CPP and the NPA terrorist organizations.
The suspension of the talks dashed hopes of ending the almost five decades of communist rebellion in the country. —Allan Nawal