A HUMAN rights group in Mindanao said there is steep rise in human rights abuses here even as the first quarter of 2019 is not yet even halfway through.
Barug Katungod Mindanao cited the cases of peasant and Lumad leaders Datu Jomorito Goaynon and Ireneo Udarbe who were first reported missing, but police later said they were arrested due to charges.
The group however said "their abduction was the military's retaliation for both's conscientious work in monitoring and filing of cases against abuses in Northern Mindanao".
In Western Mindanao, peasant leader Sergio Atay was also brutally murdered. He was allegedly interrogated by the Regional Public Safety Battalion in Rizal, Zamboanga del Norte. Atay, who was receiving threats then, returned home with bruises, bloodied, and lifeless.
Airstrikes are also relentless in Caraga region since January 24. The military also allegedly killed Emel Tejero and Randel Gallego, whom the group said were farmers, contrary to the authorities' claim that they were New People's Army (NPA) rebels.
"Barug Katungod Mindanao is alarmed by the increasingly preposterous justification being resorted to by the AFP and PNP in their cavalier killings of Lumad, Moro, and peasants. The common denominator is their categorization of political dissenters as terrorists," it says.
The group also slammed the proposed enhancement of the Human Security Act (HSA) which Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, might be a way for him to recommend the lifting of martial law in Mindanao.
But Barug Mindanao said this will only lead to further incarceration of members of cause-oriented groups, human rights workers, and ordinary civilians on mere suspicion as terrorists.
"Duterte's Martial Law in Mindanao has drawn first blood in the first quarter of 2019. It is an ominous signal that 2019 will be the reign of the fascist pigs of the Duterte regime. But it will also be a year of further resistance from a people increasingly fed up by the evils of Duterte and his killing machine," the group said.