Two days after President Rodrigo Duterte instructed police and soldiers to ‘finish off’ communists during encounters, reports of human rights violations were reported last Sunday, March 7. That day, all you could see over social media and news outlets were news about the rampant killing and arrest of activists in what is now dubbed as the “Calabarzon Crackdown.”
Different organizations called for justice for these victims of human rights violations (HRV), and called on the government to hold accountable all those who are involved in these inhumane operations. (Read: How Pope John Paul II Became A ‘Secret Activist’)
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounced the killings and arrests (though none of the victims are affiliated with them), saying, “The murders and mass arrest of activists mark a heightening of the tyrannical Duterte regime’s dirty war against all patriotic and democratic forces in Southern Tagalog, Bicol and across the country.”
They added that this only proves that the president is the “number one terrorist in the country today,” and that killing unarmed individuals proves that Duterte is a “big fascist coward.”
Instances like this remind us that there is much more to be done in the country, especially in the government and the fight for justice. That’s why My Pope Philippines is listing the nine individuals who lost their lives fighting for human rights. We remember their braveness and heroic deeds.
Known to most as Manny, Emmanuel Asuncion was a labor and multi-sectoral leader in Cavite. He was a spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Cavite), where he was in charge of all information regarding reports of human rights violations in their province. Manny also helped Pamalakaya and other fisherfolk in their fight against reclamation in 2019. He was killed by Calabarzon police at the Workers’ Assistance Center in Dasmariñas.
Abner and Edward Esto
Abner and Edward Esto are brothers who were members of the San Isidro Kasiglahan, Kapatiran at Damayan para sa Kabuhayan, Katarungan at Kapayapaan (SIKKAD-K3). SIKKAD-K3 is an organization that advocates for housing rights in Kasiglahan Village, Rodriguez, Rizal, which was red-tagged by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The Esto brothers were the 8th and 9th victims.
Mark Lee Bacasno
Mark Lee Bacasno, known to many as Makmak, was a member of SIKKAD-K3. His family is questioning how authorities came to the assumption that Makmak had weapons on him, when he was only a contractual worker. “Papaano po mangyayari sinabi nila may baril. ‘Yun nga po kami nagtataka,” his uncle said. Makmak’s family was forced to go out of where they were, and that was when they heard three gunshots. (Read: 3 Human Rights Issues That Made Headlines in December)
Michael “Greg” Dasigao was the president of SIKKAD-K3 before he was killed by police forces. With his affiliation with the organization, Greg was able to assist poor communities and farmers who opposed quarrying activities in the province. He was also a marshal officer for Kasiglahan Village, which meant he would help out in relief operations in the area during calamities. Greg also joined the Serve The People Brigade-UPLB, a student organization in the University of the Philippines Los Baños, this year when they helped distribute relief goods for farmers and scavengers in Rodriguez, Rizal.
Chai and Ariel Evangelista
Husband and wife Chai and Ariel were fisherfolk and members of the Ugnayan ng Mamamayan Laban sa Pagwawasak ng Kalikasan at Kalupaan (UMALPAS KA) in Nasugbu, Batangas. UMALPAS KA is an organization that actively opposes mining, land-grabbing, and climate change. The Evangelistas were in a hut near the shore in Barangay Calayo on Sunday, when police barged in and raided them. They are survived by their 10-year-old child.
Puroy and Randy dela Cruz
Puroy and Randy are cousins from the Dumagat Tribe who were members of the Dumagat Sierra Madre, which advocates for indigenous peoples’ rights. Both of the victims wives said that they were asked to leave their houses while their husbands stayed inside. That’s when they heard gunshots and found Puroy and Randy lifeless. According to police, they were serving warrants to the cousins because they were in possession of grenades and weapons. (Read: Local Church in Quezon Reiterates Opposition to Kaliwa Dam Project)