PHILIPPINES: Killing the ideals of dissent & free speech – two more
killed, one wounded in attacks

AHRC-STM-237-2013 – A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission

12 December 2013

(Human Rights Report for 2013: ‘License’ to torture, kill and to silence
the oppressed –
http://www.humanrights.asia/resources/hrreport/2013/AHRC-SPR-001-2013.pdf/)

On December 9, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has expressed
its deep concern over the renewed targeted attacks of journalists and
activists. In the space of one week, five journalists and activists,
known critics against corruption, wrong doings of local politicians,
extrajudicial killings, and so on, have been killed. These killings were
done in broad daylight and in crowded places displaying a blatant
disregard for the rule of law and most definitely to send a message to
the public – such dissent will not be tolerated!

The AHRC has now learnt of two more persons being killed and another
wounded. Those killed were: a broadcast journalist critical of local
politics and a poor and ordinary villager trying to protect his son and
their home from being demolished by armed policemen. The one wounded was
another broadcast journalist. The names and reasons for why they were
attacked are as follows:

On December 4, Nexon Togao, a poor and ordinary villager, was killed
when policemen shot at him as he was trying to save his son who fainted
from inhaling tear gas. He was struck in a kidney and the groin.

Nexon Togao is seen in this photo hours before he died. Photo: Task
Force Lugait

Nexon and other villagers were trying to prevent the demolition of their
homes. A court sheriff and a demolition team, including policemen who
were carrying loaded weapons arrived unannounced in Lugait, Misamis
Oriental, to demolish the homes of the informal settlers. The police
also allegedly hog-tied several women protestors at the height of the
scuffle.

In separate incidents, a broadcast journalist was killed and another was
also wounded in shootings. On December 10, Jonavin “Jhey-R” Villalba,
(43), a reporter of radio station dyOK Aksyon Radyo in Iloilo, survived
an attempt on his life. But on December 11, Rogelio “Tata” Butalid of
Radyo Natin, was killed in front his radio station in Tagum City.
Rogelio received threats to his life before he was murdered.

These renewed attacks, once again, clearly demonstrates the absence of
adequate and effective protection from state agents, and persons or
groups working for them. The government expresses its condolences to the
victim’s families and ‘demonstrates’ its ‘political will’ to ensure
justice, but beyond that nothing happens. The perpetrators still kill,
in broad daylight without fear of punishment; and their victims, still
fear for their lives without any sort of protection.

Clearly, there is a pattern of the systematic, widespread and routine
inability of the government to protect persons whose lives are
threatened; as in the case of Rogelio and Jonavin. The government
appears to be doing nothing to prevent the loss of lives and use of
excessive force on poor villagers defending their dwellings, like in the
case of Nexon and others. The government’s, present and its past
administration, are fully aware of this trend. However, why it has done
nothing to halt these targeted attacks remains the question. If the
government is and was in control of this situation, they must be asked:
what is wrong and what went wrong?

While we express our concern on the lack of, if not the absence of
punishment, or any sort of remedy for the victims and their families, we
are more deeply concerned that the space to express dissent and to
assert one’s fundamental rights and one’s freedom to express his opinion
on matters of public interest, is becoming narrower with the passing of
each day.

The AHRC is of the opinion that, in addition to killings people, to kill
persons and to systematically target those embodying the ideals of
dissent are causing far deeper damage to Filipino society. With these
killings the attackers are not only killing the physical bodies of their
victims but also the ideals they hold dear more than their own lives.
These continued attacks and the government’s inability to protect them
perpetuates this.

Furthermore, we strongly urged the government of the Philippines and its
justice institutions, the public and those who still value the ideals of
those who were killed and those who continue to assert and fight at the
risk of their lives for this ideal, to speak out in condemning these
targeted attacks. In a society where killing people in broad daylight
has become commonplace it must be realised that ‘bodies’ may inevitably
die, but the ideals they embody must and will continue to live.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional
non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia,
documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform
to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong
Kong-based group was founded in 1984.