Political prisoners turn to fasting to slam EJK
BACOLOD CITY — A group of political prisoners on Negros Island held a “protest fast” on Thursday to demand justice for all victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs) during the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
Members of the Negros Island Political Prisoners (NIPP) did not eat or take anything solid for a day, from 12 a.m. on Thursday to 12 a.m. on Friday, in a bid to have their voices heard by authorities as an act of protest. They also condemned the implementation of the Oplan Sauron, which they said was a highlight of the Duterte administration’s show of impunity.
“We challenge the Marcos [administration], which is yet unable to prove in the domestic and international arena the truthfulness of its supposed commitment to human rights, to finally address with ample political will all the unsolved cases of salvaging and massacre in Negros and elsewhere in the country, including those committed during the Duterte regime,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
NIPP cited reports from human rights group Karapatan and Defend-Negros which documented around 100 political killings on Negros Island since early 2017. The political prisoners said among the victims were their “reliable supporters” in their struggle to secure speedy trial and freedom.
On March 30, 2019, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police launched Oplan Sauron 2 which led to the deaths of 14 leaders and members of farmers’ groups in Canlaon City and the towns of Manjuyod and Sta. Catalina in Negros Oriental province.
Among those killed were human rights lawyer Ben Ramos, secretary general for Negros Occidental of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers who was gunned down in Kabankalan City in 2018; and lawyer Anthony Trinidad, who was shot dead in Guihulngan City in 2019.Also assassinated were Toto Patigas, secretary general of the Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates who was murdered in Escalante City in 2019; and Zara Alvarez, staff member of the Karapatan-Negros Occidental, who was murdered in Bacolod City in 2020.
NIPP said the “untimely deaths” of the victims occurred at the same time the number of political prisoners on Negros Island increased, which as of March 30 had reached 141, or nearly 20 percent of all political prisoners in the country.
“We, political prisoners, thus note with cautious hope the statement of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla—in reference to the ongoing investigation of the Gov. (Roel) Degamo assassination-cum-Pamplona massacre case—which acknowledges a pattern of impunity within the area that we did not sense before,” the group said.
NIPP is hoping that the Degamo slay probe will pave the way for the investigation of EJK cases involving human rights defenders and ordinary residents of Negros Islands deemed collateral damage in the government’s counter-insurgency campaign.
Degamo, the governor of Negros Oriental, was killed by armed men who entered his residential compound in Pamplona town on March 4. Eight others died in the attack.
At least 10 suspects, most of whom were former soldiers who were dismissed from service, are now under the custody of the government.
“We declare that this problem of impunity in Negros, this raging human rights crisis in the country, can never be solved through the Marcos [administration’s] knee-jerk reaction of deploying an even greater number of combat troops in Negros,” NIPP said.