APCHRP Condemns Killing of Bohol Theater Director and Detention of Manobo Leader

While public attention is focused on the Covid 19 pandemic, state attacks on community activists continue unabated in the Philippines. The Asia Pacific Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (APCHRP) condemns these blatant abuses of human rights.

On the 17th of March 2020, Marlon Maldos, the choreographer and trainer of “Bol-anong Artista nga may Diwang Dagohoy” (Bansiwag), a community theatre group in Bohol, was murdered. Maldos was riding on a motorbike with two others, when the occupants of another motorcycle fired at him. He was only 25 years old.

The local police say Maldos appeared to be the direct target of the attack because when all three occupants of the motorbike fell to the ground after the shots, the assailants purposely approached and fired at close range at Maldos to finish him off.

In the months prior to his killing Maldos and his family were subject to “red-tagging” and vilification by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which claimed he was an active supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA) because of his involvement in campaigns for land reform. Sadly, Maldos’ murder follows a familiar pattern, an individual is vilified as a “red” or communist sympathiser and then targeted in an extrajudicial killing.

Other activists are also facing detention on trumped up charges after being falsely accused of communist links. On March 19th 2020 the police arrested a prominent Manobo indigenous leader, Gloria Tomalon, in Surigao del Sur, Mindanao. She was charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention – a charges levelled at hundreds of indigenous activists in Mindanao since 2018 with little or no evidence.

Tomalon is a founder of KATRIBUMMU, an indigenous organisation critical of environmentally destructive mining operations on indigenous land in Mindanao, and is a council member of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC). She is also the sister of the Bayan Muna Congresswoman Eufemia Cullamat.

Major General Antonio Parlade Jr, spokesperson of the Duterte Administration’s National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), hailed Tomalon’s arrest – claiming she was the chair of an organisation which “promotes communist principles”.
This shows that under the Duterte Administration advocacy for human rights, indigenous people and the environment is now seen by the government as akin to armed communist insurgency.

The Duterte Administration has responded to the Covid-19 crisis with a military rather than health response – with heavily armed soldiers enforcing curfews and checkpoints in urban areas. Everyone concerned about human rights in the Philippines needs to be vigilant, considering the real possibility this increasing militarisation of society will be used as a cover for further attacks on activists and others serving the Filipino people.

APCHRP calls for Marlon Maldos’ killers to be held accountable and for the freedom of Gloria Tomalon. The Covid-19 crisis should not be used as an excuse for further militarisation and attacks on activists.

Reference: Sister Fox
APCHRP Spokesperson
24 March 2020