Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has decried the unrelenting harassment and violence against opposition members and critics under the Duterte regime as she condemned the killings of three Bicol-based human rights workers in the past weeks.
“In the past week, three human rights workers have been summarily executed in our own region, which is covered under Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32,” the lady Senator from Bicol said in a message read during the launch of Bunyog Banwaan.
De Lima was referring to MO No. 32 issued last Nov. 22, deploying additional forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to suppress lawlessness violence and acts of terror in the provinces of Samar, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, and the Bicol region.
Just recently, three human rights activists were killed in Bicol. Ryan Hubilla and Nelly Bagalasa, both belonging to the human rights group Karapatan, were killed in Sorsogon last June 15 while Neptali Morada was shot in Naga City last June 17.
According to the former justice secretary, the continued harassment against critics of President Duterte is aimed at silencing those who bravely stand up against the oppressive acts and excesses of the current administration.
“Lalong sumikip ang espasyo para magpahayag ng ating mga hinaing dahil ang katumbas nito ay ibayong panggigipit, kung hindi man kamatayan. Hindi ka pa man nagsisimulang magsalita, binubusalan ka na,” stressed De Lima, currently detained for trumped-up charges concocted by the Duterte regime.
“These are dark times, and the terror that has blanketed our land should have rendered us immobile, subdued,” added De Lima, who is known for her vocal stand against the rampant human rights violations and extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration.
De Lima underscored that Filipinos should not remain blind and deaf to the plight of their fellow countrymen who lost their loved ones to Duterte’s bloody and sham war against illegal drugs and the rampant abuse of power under the current administration.
“Ngunit maaari bang magbingi-bingihan na lang sa gitna ng panaghoy ng mga nawalan ng mahal sa buhay? O kaya ay magbulag-bulagan habang namamayagpag ang iilang nasa kapangyarihan?” she pointed out.
De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, has vowed to refile her human rights defenders’ protection bill in the 18th Congress to give protection to human rights advocates against harassment and violence.
While a counterpart measure was approved by the House of Representatives during the previous 17th Congress, the De Lima measure gathered dust in the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights chaired by Sen. Richard J. Gordon.
In her message, De Lima also lauded the prominent role of Bicolanos in the country’s continuing fight for justice and lasting peace. Among them are the 15 Bicolano Martyrs, Jose Maria Panganiban of Camarines Norte, Wenceslao Q. Vinzons, Col. Juan Q. Miranda and his guerrillas, late Senators Joker Arroyo and Raul Roco, late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and Vice President Leni Robredo.
“Hindi tayo kailanman tumatalikod sa tawag ng tungkulin na ipagtanggol ang bayang inaapi,” she said. Launched at JMR Museum Auditorium, Naga City last June 26, Bunyog Banwaan (or Bunyog) is a Bicol regional political movement that seeks to advance the fight for their advocacies of good governance and ideals of democracy, rule of law and social justice. VP Robredo was the guest of honor and speaker in said event.