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The Malaya Movement strongly condemns the Duterte government’s raids earlier this month in Tacloban City, Leyte, which resulted in the illegal arrests and detention of Frenchie Mae Cumpio, who has reported on military attacks against civilians in Eastern Visayas for the independent media organization Altermidya; Marielle Domequil of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Eastern Visayas; and youth activists from progressive organizations—Alexander Abinguna of Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas–Karapatan, Mira Legion of Bayan-Eastern Visayas, and Marissa Cabaljao of People Surge Network. Cabaljao was arrested along with her one-year-old baby when the police and military raided their office, claiming it was a safehouse for “communist terrorist groups” (the baby has since been released to Cabaljao’s relatives).

The journalist and four human rights defenders were arrested and continue to be detained on trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms. Bail was set at ₱120,000 each (~$2,350 USD). For the average family in Tacloban making ₱57 (~$1.13 USD) per day, paying off this bail would take more than five and a half years. Malaya stands with Altermidya, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, Karapatan, Bayan, and People Surge Network in denouncing the veracity of these charges, which follow a pattern by the Duterte government to red bait, intimidate, and silence those who expose human rights abuses and who are critical of the Duterte regime.

Malaya convener and Tacloban native Gina Apostol stated, “We know that the Duterte government has been killing people in its drug war—but just as aggressive has been its current war on activists. The arrest of environmental activists is deeply concerning—the government is calling them ‘communists’ because any movement demanding human rights has become suspect in the Philippines—this is not an exaggeration.”

This latest attack demonstrates that the Philippines now is operating under de facto martial law. Duterte’s Oplan Kapanatagan has militarized all sectors of government, with over 100 former military officials leading civilian posts. The removal of the distinction between civilians and combatants, as well as police criminal operations and military counterinsurgency operations, has created an environment rife with abuses, where law enforcement can act with impunity.

Moreover, Executive Order 70—directing all government agencies, including social services and social development programs, to root out “communist” threats, insurgencies, and armed conflict—has led to unsubstantiated claims and arrests of those labeled as sympathizers or collaborators. Furthermore, the placing of Samar, Negros, and Bicol in a “state of lawless violence and terror” under Memorandum Order 32 has resulted in killing sprees by the police and military of local civilians, particularly poor farmers.

We, members of Malaya Movement, call on the Filipino-American community to stand with journalists, human rights activists, and land defenders in the Philippines in their fight for freedom of speech, justice, and human dignity. That their call for government accountability in the midst of natural disasters and soaring economic inflation has been met with state-sanctioned violence is unacceptable in a democracy. 

Free the Tacloban 5!

Free all political prisoners!

Defend press freedom!

Activism is not a crime!


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