Human rights group Karapatan strongly denounces the recent orders of President Rodrigo Duterte to Police Lt. Col. Jovie Espenido, the former chief of police of Albuera, Leyte and Ozamiz City where two mayors were killed in police operations, to feel “free to kill everybody.”
In a speech last Thursday night, Duterte further said he sent Espenido to Bacolod, which he referred to as a city “badly hit” by illegal drugs.
“This recent statement by Duterte is nothing new, but its ramifications on the ground remain dangerous. We take this as a directive to perpetrate more bloodshed in the already battered region of Negros. Espenido, like Duterte, does not care for human rights or due process, except when it is in the context of escaping accountability. The transfer of Espenido in Negros will worsen the already unrelenting human rights violations in the region,” Reylan Vergara, Karapatan Vice Chairperson said.
Vergara recalled that “in the first half of Duterte’s term, he already made remarks addressed to authorities that anyone who kills in the name of this government’s policies will be protected or, if charged, pardoned. No doubt that the President has enabled a bloodthirsty police force who continue to commit atrocities with impunity. They are rewarded with salary increases despite corruption scandals and recent revelations that police themselves are involved in the recycling of drugs. Nothing has changed: the PNP remains as a band of ruthless criminals in uniform. This government is the foremost organized syndicate in this country and its state forces who do the dirty work are coddled by the President.”
Citing Espenido’s admission that bloody operations should be expected wherever he goes, the Karapatan official said that Duterte’s decision to designate him in a region already littered with human rights violations is an indication that the remaining years of Duterte’s term will be of continuing State terrorism.
“Espenido basks in being a butcher. He takes pride in killing because he is enabled by our corrupt and militarist system. He speaks with no indication of service to the people, only of war and killings. Nowadays, we see an insurgence of Palparan-wannabes who carry out this government’s marching orders to kill more Filipinos under false and skewed justifications,” added Vergara.
Espenido’s record has always been tarnished with human rights violations, particularly those in line with the government’s campaign against illegal drugs. It was during his time that two city executives were killed in an anti-drug operation.
“We consider this recent statement by Duterte as a clear indication of his incitement of violence against all Filipinos in Negros. For the past three years, we have seen what this government is capable of — mass murders in the name of its war on drugs and counterinsurgency program, communities bombed and displaced and hundreds of activists harassed and arrested in its war on human rights,” noted Vergara.
According to the Karapatan official, the spate of attacks in region has been aggravated by the implementation of Memorandum Order No. 32 which placed Bicol, Negros, and Eastern Visayas under a “state of lawlessness.” This is on top of the implementation of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapanatagan.
“Duterte is adding to its band of butchers. From Espenido, the new AFP Chief Noel Clement, the new NCRPO Chief Debold Sinas and many others, this is indicative of a regime that rewards killers. Karapatan enjoins everyone to condemn this regime’s continuing attacks against Filipinos and to call for an end to the government’s anti-people policies,” he concluded