August 30, 2021. The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines marks National Heroes’ Day with a renewed call to investigate the crimes of the Duterte regime. Over the past six months, ICHRP has witnessed heroic acts of Filipinos who were victims of human rights atrocities, who have stepped forward to testify in front of the Investigate PH’s Independent International Commission of Investigation telling their stories of the brutality of the Duterte Regime. These are the real heroes!
Farmers, workers, women, church people, indigenous peoples, lawyers, and human rights defenders have all bravely come forward at great personal risk to testify on the criminal actions of the police, military and the wrongs committed by the Duterte Regime. These testimonies have allowed Investigate PH to document some of the tens of thousands of tokhang-style executions of poor people in the “War on Drugs”. It was able to show the regime’s brutality and the refugee crisis created by the government attacks on the Moro people in Marawi City. It has exposed the ongoing War on Dissent whereby opponents of the regime in the media, the legal system, and other sectors who advocate for human rights are systematically silenced.
In the last year, the Duterte regime has extended its attacks to the aged – septuagenarians and octogenarians – targeting the frail and sickly for state- sanctioned execution. Among the victims were Randall Echanis, 71, executed in August 2020; Agaton Topacio and Eugenia Magpantay, both 68, killed by police in their own home at 3 am on November 25, 2020. Most recently on May 30, 2021, former Roman Catholic priest and former NDFP peace consultant Fr. Rustico Luna Tan, 80 years old, was shot in the face and killed in his home on Camotes Island, Cebu, as he slept on his hammock. As noted previously by ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy, “These killings are a demonstration of the brutal Duterte regime’s callous disregard for the rule of law, civility and the peace process”.
What we have learned through Investigate PH about these tokhang-style attacks is that the forensic evidence in many cases has shown the victims did not fight back, their bodies showed only defensive wounds. Though senior police officials continue to deny there is a cover-up, they have refused to turn over case files to Dept of Justice investigators.
Duterte’s abysmal record of public service has been a disaster for the Filipino people. Tens of thousands murdered in the “War on Drugs”, hundreds of thousands left homeless and abandoned by their government in the War on the Moro people, and a generation impacted by the ongoing attacks on democracy through his War on Dissent. His militarization of the Covid-19 public health crisis has been another disaster for workers and the entire urban population of the Philippines, and the pandemic continues to ravage the population.
ICHRP Chairperson Peter Murphy notes “President Duterte will go down in history as a criminal using his office to order murders on a vast scale while bragging about it, promising impunity to his henchmen, and happily comparing himself to Adolf Hitler. The international community has recoiled, but done nothing more. But Duterte will be called to account by the real heroes of the Philippines who have never stopped calling for justice and asserting their rights during these past five years and more.”
INVESTIGATE PH Commissioner Rev. Chris Ferguson, General Secretary of the World Council of Reformed Churches added: “When a tyrannical leader styles themselves as a popularist saviour and dedicates the whole apparatus of government, judiciary and state to repress dissent and demonize the defense of human right it takes an unimaginable guts and fiery courage to publicly resist and call for justice. In the ongoing process of Investigate PH I have been humbled and truly overwhelmed to experience the bravery of those who have come forward to bear witness at the risk of their life, reputation and freedom to say no to Duterte and demand justice and peace for their country and communities. I could only pray that I would have such selfless courage”.
ICHRP marks National Heroes’ Day with a shout out to the everyday heroes in Philippine society, those who stand up for justice in the face of tyranny, those who have persisted in the struggle for justice and have garnered the attention of the International Criminal Court, those who have testified before Investigate PH, providing the evidentiary foundation that further exposes the criminal nature of the Duterte Regime and its campaign of political violence and state terror against civilians in the regime’s War on Dissent. We salute the courage of these everyday heroes.
Contact: Peter Murphy +61 418 312 301