By Teddy Casiño
In November last year, Pres. Duterte issued Memorandum Order No. 32 deploying additional troops and police in the Bicol region, Samar provinces and Negros Island to conduct intensified operations to “suppress and prevent lawless violence” and “acts of terror.”
Although not explicitly stated, the fact that these areas are known strongholds of the communist-led New People’s Army made it apparent that the target of Memorandum Order No. 32 would be the communist rebels, their sympathizers as well as members of so-called “communist fronts” who had been the object of Duterte’s rabid rants and sustained threats following his pull out from the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
By December, barely a month after Duterte gave his marching orders, six farmers were killed and 31 arrested in simultaneous midnight operations by the AFP and PNP in Guihulngan City, Negros Occidental. Authorities said all six resisted arrest, in circumstances similar to drug-related, tokhang-style killings.
Last March 30 , another 14 farmers were killed and 12 arrested in similar joint PNP-AFP operations in Canlaon City, Manjuyod and Sta. Catalina towns, also in Negros Oriental. Authorities claimed the farmers, all local residents in the area, were NPA rebels who resisted the serving of search warrants, and were thus gunned down.
Since April, 18 more individuals have been killed, mostly in Negros Oriental, this time by unidentified assailants or motorcycle-riding assassins. Many of the victims were known human rights advocates and allies of local peasant associations previously red-tagged as communist supporters or sympathizers.
Thirteen were gunned down just this week, following the July 18 ambush of four policemen by the NPA in Ayungon, Negros Oriental. This included human rights lawyer Anthony Trinidad who was earlier tagged by local anti-communist group Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (KAGUBAK) as an NPA supporter.
It does not take a genuis to see what is happening in Negros. Similar to his order to kill drug users and pushers, Duterte ordered the PNP and AFP to go after the rebels whom he characterized as “criminals” and “lawless elements.”
In a pattern we are all too familiar with, the PNP and AFP initially conducted “one time, big time” operations in the guise of serving arrest and search warrants on suspected rebels. Later on, it would be unidentified assassins who would do the dirty work.
The result? In the eight months of Memorandum Order 32, 41 unarmed civilians have been killed in Negros alone.
If we want the killings to stop, Duterte and his dogs in the PNP and AFP should stop their rampage./www.panaytoday.net