December 31, 2020
Contact: Rhonda Ramiro, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Nikole Cababa, email@example.com
BAYAN USA, supporters of human rights and peace in the Philippines, and the progressive Filipino community raise our voices to condemn the latest act of naked brutality by state forces of Duterte’s fascist regime. On December 30, 2020—less than two days before the start of the New Year—combined forces of the 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the Western Visayas Philippine National Police descended upon Tumandok indigenous communities on Panay Island. The operation, spanning the two provinces of Iloilo and Capiz, was coordinated by the Synchronized Enhanced Management of Police Operation (SEMPO) and led to the cruel murders of 9 Tumandok indigenous people, a number of whom were community and tribal leaders resisting corporate encroachments on their ancestral lands. Eighteen other Tumandok were arrested.
Among the slain Tumandok leaders were Roy Giganto, Reynaldo Katipunan, and Mario Aguirre. All three were councilors from Barangay Lahug, Tapaz, Capiz province. Giganto was the chairperson of Tumandok nga Mangunguma nga Nagapangapin sa Duta kag Kabuhi (TUMANDUK,) a Tumandok farmers’ organization for land and livelihood rights. These leaders were known opponents of destructive projects like the Jalaur Mega Dam and the Panay River Basin Integrated Development Project. The former is expected to displace 17,000 Tumandoks and cause water problems and flooding for over a million people, while the latter will affect at least 19 barangays in Tumandok ancestral domains.
As a consequence of their work as land and human rights defenders, Giganto and others were terror-tagged by the local police as well as the Duterte regime’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), with intelligence assets such as Jeffrey Celis asserting that the TUMANDUK organization was a mere front for the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army without any evidence. For years, Duterte’s death squads have used terror-tagging as a tactic to target and eliminate opposition to the regime’s pro-imperialist agenda.
This Panay massacre comes at the end of a particularly difficult year faced by the Filipino people. From criminal negligence and blatant government corruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, to multiple tortures, abductions, unlawful arrests, political killings, and the recent spate of police violence against unarmed civilians, the Duterte regime has dealt a decade worth of hardship upon the Filipino people in this year alone. Working class and peasant masses have faced the worst of the Duterte regime’s violence.
The 19 billion pesos of the 4.5 trillion dollar national budget of 2021 allocated for the NTF-ELCAC will only fund more death and bloodshed like that of the Tumandok Massacre. Rather than providing adequate relief for the Filipino people and the economy ravaged by COVID-19, Duterte is hellbent on quelling any opposition and resistance against him, especially the National Democratic movement that endures and grows stronger across all sectors despite the regime’s desperate attempts to crush it.
Overseas Filipinos have all the right to rage against the current atrocities. Not only are their families back home being criminally neglected amidst the pandemic but the very communities where Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) hail from—working class, peasant and urban poor communities—are being driven even deeper into lethal poverty, police brutality and state-sponsored killings.
We call on Filipinos overseas and our allies to call for justice for the Tumandok 9 and for the release of those detained. Only by continuing to rise up against state repression and resolving the root causes of poverty of the country can there be genuine peace for the Tumandok indigenous peoples and majority of the Filipino people oppressed by the Duterte regime.
Justice for the Victims of Tumandok Massacre!
Stop the Killings in the Philippines!
Activism is Not Terrorism! Abolish NTF-ELCAC!
Oust Duterte Now!
#StopTheKillingsPH #StopKillingFarmers #JunkTerrorLaw #OustDuterteNow
BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 30 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing students, scholars, women, workers, artists, and youth. As the first and largest international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a center for educating, organizing, and mobilizing anti-imperialist and progressive Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org