Youth remembers Karen and She’s enforced disappearance, intensifies call to #JunkTerrorBill

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Today, June 26, 2020, Kabataan Party-list remembers the fourteenth year of the enforced disappearance of Sherlyn “She” Cadapan and Karen Empeño, students from the University of the Philippines.

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Karen and She were on immersion with farmers in Hagonoy, Bulacan when they were wrongfully tagged as communists and were abducted by military agents, headed by the butcher Gen. Jovito Palparan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). They were forced to board a private jeepney from their transient house, never to be seen again. Twelve years have passed, and those who are responsible have yet to surface them and be brought to justice.

The crass, immediate, and wrongful identification of people as communists or NPA members, mainly by agents of the state, known as “red-tagging” or “red-bating,” has put so many people from many different sectors into similar ordeals experienced by Karen and She. Nevermind that this act is itself prohibited by international humanitarian law. This tactic has been used by elements in the government and its state forces to quell dissent, especially dissent rooted in the issues of the masses like socio-economic relief, land reform, and the end of contractualization and tyranny.

Red-tagging is a similar phenomenon where activists, human rights and NGO volunteers, workers, peasants, and all other vocal and critical concerned citizens receive threats, intimidation, and other forms of violence from state forces, especially the military by way of labeling them as so-called communists. While the drug war has been an attack against the poor that only started during the current administration, red-tagging has been an ongoing offensive as far back as the 1950 communist witch hunts, encompassing policies the Filipino people have collectively condemned such as the establishment of the Committee on Anti-Filipino Activities and the institution of the Anti-Subversion Law. Under the US-directed counter-insurgency operations of every administration, including the current Oplan Kapayapaan under Duterte, many farmers, activists, journalists, church people, and others have been killed based on mere accusations.

Moreover, we see that with the amendments to the already fascistic Human Security Act, that with the expansion of the term “terrorism,” as well as the legislative permission for state forces to commit human rights violations, more people will be vulnerable to red-tagging and its associated acts of violence. This convenience of mere accusation violates the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), which calls for the protection of human rights, especially of non-combatants. Instead of resolving the roots of armed conflict in our country through peace talks, state agents consciously perpetuate the cycle that ends in armed conflict through callous attacks against progressive individuals and groups.

In the proposed amendment, the arrest of any suspected “terrorist” as identified by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), can be arrested, subjected to 14 days of which can be extended by 10 days, without any formal charges as set before the courts. Not only does this diminish constitutional separation of powers, it also contravenes the maximum number of days without charges as provided in the 1987 Constitution. The Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), an executive body with Duterte at its head, tries to vest upon itself powers exclusively for the judiciary, and the detention period greatly exceeding the constitutional 3-day maximum.

With regards to the safeguards provided in the law, it is pure fantasy to believe that the law enforcement agencies, along with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, would strictly follow by the rules and thus prohibit them from doing underhanded and fascist tactics. Under the Human Security Act and the current Executive Order 70, the government has been responsible for various enforced disappearances, torture, fake surrenders, and the murder of innocent civilians, all under the premise of them being members of the communist armed movement, without due process of law.

Additionally, members of the ATC are also members of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which is actively engaged in red-tagging not only legal mass organizations, but also democratically elected representatives, church persons, rights groups and other individuals with progressive advocacies.

With the looming passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, we expect that violations of constitutionally guaranteed rights will further embolden state forces to perpetrate fear, violence, and terror upon the people. We urge the state and all its instruments to desist from engaging in these misinformation and life-threatening campaigns, as these do nothing but endanger the lives of our countrymen and undermine the people’s legitimate calls for their democratic rights.

Amid an ever-growing tyranny and the realization of another martial law, we condemn such cheap yet deadly attempts when all forces should be in solidarity with the masses and their issues.

Palparan has already been convicted as guilty in the kidnapping case of Empeno, Cadapan, and Manalo, yet the fight continues. Karen and Sherlyn, like many other desaparecidos, remain to be surfaced. Butcher law enforcers like Palparan are enabled through Duterte’s lead and coddling, coupled with his administration’s terror and tyranny plaguing the nation.

With this, the youth will remain a voice of reason and dissent against state violence and amidst anti-people and anti-democratic policies and will continue to be a voice not only for themselves but also for farmers, workers, and all other sectors of the exploited and oppressed.###

Oppose the ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Bill that legitimizes authoritarian and martial rule in the middle of a pandemic!

Stop the attacks against the youth and the people!


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