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Defend the Right to Life, Resist the Return of Authoritarian Rule

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

On Monday this week President Duterte threatened to kill human rights defenders criticizing his war on drugs. And so it is revealed. The main program of the President for this country is to kill. Kill suspected drug peddlers yesterday, human rights activists today, kill all opposition voices tomorrow.

President Duterte’s paradigm of change rests solely on a framework of Peace and Order that promises a development agenda which, five months into his term, is slowly being revealed as the same anti-poor, pro-oligarch, neo-liberal agenda. The peace and security purportedly being felt in our communities are nothing more than the silent terror of a bullet through our doors and bullets delivered by those “riding in tandem”. Duterte’s brand of change is grimly familiar with former President Ramos’ “Philippines 2000” development aggression, and Gloria Arroyo’s “Strong Republic” with its own body count of extrajudicial killings and internal displacement. It is most familiar of course, with the Marcos family, the architects of Martial Law.

Duterte’s bloody war on drugs underlines the violence already suffered by the people due to extreme poverty, landlessness, contractual labor, war and displacement, shortage of housing and livelihood opportunities. These are the real crises of our nation, but are met with more violence, death, misogyny, sexism, vulgarity. The war on drugs have become government’s only concrete response to the pressing and complex issues facing the country today.

Duterte is supported by a super majority in both houses of Congress which are now railroading the passing of anti-human rights legislation designed to establish a new police state. The State of National Emergency on account of lawless violence remains in effect. The reintroduction of the death penalty, reducing the minimum age of criminal responsibility, calls for the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, calls for amendments to the anti-wiretapping law, Charter Change and the continuing derogation of the rule of law, are not measures to eliminate drugs and crime. They are laying the groundwork for an authoritarian rule of a new despot serving the interests of the old oligarchs to which he belongs.

OUR ALTERNATIVE IS HUMAN RIGHTS. iDEFEND has always asserted the need for a human rights based governance system that addresses the root cause of criminality, and guarantees a sustainable and people centered development. We push for a harm reduction strategy in the approach to the drugs issue: institutionalizing a public health framework, a complete halt to the targeting and killing of suspected drug users, and rule-based law enforcement procedures in apprehending drug traders.

iDEFEND supports the implementation of an economic agenda based on social justice: an end to contractual labor, land conversions, demolitions, internal displacement, and militarization. The defense of the right to life refers to the protection of both the physical integrity as well as the ability of a person to lead a life of dignity. The right to life requires the absence of fear for our lives and our loved ones; the right to life requires job security, land security, housing rights, a sustainable environment, long-term economic opportunities, a justice system that works, and access to health care and education for all.

On the launch of the Global Day of Action in Defense of the Right to Life, iDEFEND calls on our people to strongly oppose the resurgence of authoritarian rule even as it feels like martial law is already here, as evidenced by now 5,600 victims of extrajudicial killings. We can only continue our work for human rights and sustainable development if our freedoms to express, report, organize, assemble and conduct public actions are preserved, and our civil liberties are guaranteed.