Political ’tokhang’ taking shape in Mindanao, militants warn
GENERAL SANTOS CITY — Brace for political “tokhang.”
Ryan Amper, spokesperson for Barug Katungod Mindanao (Stand for Human Rights Mindanao), issued the warning on Monday as he revealed that more than 600 activists in Mindanao were slapped with alleged fabricated charges, mostly by the military, since President Duterte took office two years ago.
“This political ‘tokhang’ is meant to silence the dissent of activists and community leaders,” Amper said in a telephone interview.
“Tokhang” was derived from the Visayan words “toktok” (knock) and “hangyo” (plead), which the government employed in the war against drugs that killed thousands of mostly poor suspected drug users and traders.
During operations, policemen usually knock on the door of drug personalities and ask them to surrender and undergo rehabilitation.
“We have verified incidents where the military knocked on the houses of suspected NPA (New People’s Army) rebels or supporters and asked them to surrender,” Amper said.
He said among the “manufactured” charges filed against militants and human rights defenders included murder, frustrated murder, serious illegal detention, alarm and scandal, public disorder, grave coercion and obstruction of justice.
In a statement on Sunday, Amper blamed the growing number of cases filed against activists to the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action, which was created by the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in October 2017.
This aims to strengthen intelligence gathering and cooperation, investigation, prosecution and monitoring of cases against threat groups in the country.
Capt. Arvin Encinas, spokesperson for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, belied accusations that the military filed fabricated charges against those critical of the government and big businesses operating on “lumad” (indigenous peoples) communities.
“Our charges are backed [up by] evidence,” he said.
Encinas, however, admitted there was an increase in the number of cases filed against militants and community leaders since the military intensified operations against communist rebels. —Bong Sarmiento
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