The Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women joined the growing clamor against President Rodrigo Duterte’s proposal to arm civilians in its anti-crime campaign, saying that it will only act as a multiplier force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in its counter-insurgency operations which target farmers, peasant women, activists as well as land and human rights advocates.

“Isa itong malaking kalokohan. Sa gitna ng lumalalang krisis sa kabuhayan at kalusugan, panibagong problema ang naiisip ni Duterte. Patunay na ang prayoridad niya ay maghasik ng takot at maglatag ng makinarya para matiyak ang pananatili sa poder ng kanyang angkan at mga alipores,” Amihan national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.

“Lalong titindi ang karahasan at pamamaslang kapag inarmasan ang mga sibilyan. Kung iyon ngang mga pulis at militar na may training at lisensiya ay umaalagwa sa kawalan ng pagrespeto sa karapatang pantao, sibilyan pa kaya. Malamang mauuwi ito sa mga goons at mga vigilante na magsisilbi para atakehin ang mga magsasaka, aktibista, kritiko ng gobyerno, at mga kalaban sa pulitika,” Soriano added.

The peasant women group stressed that the Duterte government’s human rights abuses gained international attention prompting the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate its war on drugs campaign.

“Farmers, peasant women, agricultural workers and fisherfolk have long been targets of the Duterte government’s fascist attacks using AFP, PNP, paramilitary and private armed groups. Arming civilians will legalize and institutionalize these rights abuses using the worn-out ‘nanlaban’ and red-tagging excuse to escape accountability,” Soriano exclaimed.

“There have been countless Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO) and tokhang-like operations in Negros, Panay, Samar, Bicol and Southern Tagalog which resulted to deaths and illegal arrest and detention of our fellow farmers and peasant women. Police and military operations in rural communities have become instruments of harassment, red-tagging and forced surrender,” Soriano added.

The group noted that in Isabela, forces under the 95th IB of the AFP have been visiting sugar workers affiliated with the Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura-Isabela (UMA-Isabela), including peasant women members and leaders, interrogating them on the organization’s typhoon-related relief operations, claiming they have links to the New People’s Army (NPA) and asking them to ‘clear their names’.

“We urge the public to actively condemn Duterte’s tyrannical proposal that would put more innocent lives in danger. Duterte’s criminal negligence and gross incompetence to resolve the widespread poverty and hunger amid the pandemic on top of rampant human rights violations deserve an outrage and demands for accountability from the Filipino people, ” Soriano said.

Amihan will be joining the #WakasanNa protest in Manila tomorrow to mark the last year of Duterte’s presidency. ###

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