Three weeks into 2023, we raise deep concerns over recent events pointing to disturbing patterns of impunity clearly tying the present presidential administration to the one just passed…
Dismissal of criminal charges seeking justice. Just yesterday, January 17, the Department of Justice dismissed the criminal charges filed against 17 police officers of the PNP Calabarzon over the killing of labor leader Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion at the Workers Assistance Center in Cavite, one of the nine activists killed in the “Bloody Sunday” police raids across Southern Tagalog on March 7, 2021, deaths followed by the vigilante-style killing of labor leader Dandy Miguel in Canlubang, Laguna three weeks later.
Abduction of activists in broad daylight. On January 10, Cebu-based activists Dyan Gumanao and Armand Dahoya, returning via ferry from a family vacation to Mindanao, were brazenly abducted in broad daylight by suspected state agents aboard a gray vehicle at Pier 6, Cebu City. They resurfaced and reunited with their families on January 16, amid strong public outrage and as footage of the abduction taken by witnesses was made public. We condemn the abduction and detention of Gumanao, a development worker, and Dahoya, a visual artist and a lecturer at UP Cebu active in cultural organizations. We have not forgotten the abduction of Cordillera leader Steve Tauli on August 20, 2022, who surfaced two days later, and other activists in recent months. Activist Jonas Burgos was taken in a Quezon City mall 16 years ago in 2007 and is still missing.
Appointment of more military figures to the Cabinet. We are disturbed by the continuing practice of promoting various military personnel charged as among the perpetrators of rights abuses. On January 14, Marcos Jr. appointed Eduardo Año, former AFP Chief of Staff and DILG Secretary under Duterte, as National Security Adviser. Año was Chief of the AFP’s Intelligence Service Group at the time of Burgos’s high-profile disappearance. Under his tenure as DILG Secretary, the agency not only threatened to sue a TV production for portraying the police in a negative light but also authorized police house-to-house searches when people were calling for medical, not military responses, to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Death threats against Martial Law activists. On January 2, playwright-director and Martial Law survivor Bonifacio Ilagan received a death threat from an anonymous caller, the first time such a brazen threat against his life was implied and conveyed.
These different developments, threatening the lives of fellow artists and cultural workers are all acts of impunity, demonstrating a fundamental disrespect for human rights and justice. Kabastuhan sa karapatan, dignidad, at kalayaan nating mamamayan.
As the International Labor Organization (ILO) High-Level Tripartite Mission to the Philippines nears, we urge fellow artists and cultural workers to continue to stand in solidarity, create and share works that inspire others to fight back against the impunity and human rights violations crossing over from one administration to another. No one is safe in a society where justice, rights, and due process is continuously dismissed.