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Duterte says government wary of poll disruptions by 'yellows' and 'communists'

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Duterte says government wary of poll disruptions by 'yellows' and 'communists'
This October 2020 photo shows President Rodrigo Duterte speaking during his weekly public address.
Presidential Photo / King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:34 p.m.) — President Rodrigo Duterte has revived talk of the political opposition and communist rebels working together, this time, he said, to disrupt the May elections.

Duterte made the statement in a pre-recorded interview with televangelist Apollo Quiboloy aired Saturday night after Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson and Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla (Cavite) claimed that the presidential campaign of Vice President Leni Robredo has been infiltrated by communists.

The government has branded activist groups, especially those in the Makabayan bloc, as "communist fronts" and has equated activism with taking up arms.

"It seems there’s a grouping of the communists, the yellows, and there’s this other one. Well, of course, the communists are already a terrorist organization. So the yellows. I forgot the other one," Duterte said in mixed Filipino and English. 

In 2018, the president claimed that the "yellows" — shorthand for the Liberal Party — the communists and the right-wing Magdalo group were working together to oust him.

"That’s what the government is concerned about. They are watching for that kind of situation," Duterte, who previously identified as a leftist president, said in the interview aired on Saturday night.

"They might cause chaos because they have these working relations now with the yellows and the election is the objective really."

Makabayan supports Robredo's campaign and activist organizations have been present at the vice president's rallies. Rep. Remulla has said that the attendance of these groups at Robredo rallies in Cavite was his proof of the supposed communist infiltration.

The UN Human Rights Office and the Commission on Human Rights have repeatedly pointed out that equating activism with terrorism could lead to harassment and intimidation. Support for and membership in activist groups does not mean membership in or support for the communist armed struggle.

In a statement Sunday, the Communist Party of the Philippines said Duterte was "singing a tune from the Marcos songbook", adding the statements echo those made by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos to justify the declaration of Martial Law in September 1972.

It also warned of the possibility of "false flag operations" that would "set the stage for mass arrests of members of patriotic and democratic mass organizations and opposition parties, or an open declaration of martial law."

Bayan Muna coordinator shot in General Santos

On Sunday morning, Bayan Muna reported that its General Santos coordinator was shot at his house in Barangay Buayan.

In a statement sent to reporters, Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna party-list) condemned the shooting of 64-year-old Larry Villegas. 

According to Bayan Muna, Villegas was rushed to a local hospital where he is still being treated. Witnesses said an unidentified assailant barged into his house and shot him early Sunday morning.

"Villegas being the Bayan Muna coordinator in General Santos and the chairperson of the progressive transport group TIRES-PISTON General Santos is also a victim of non-stop red-tagging as he criticizes the anti-people policies of the Duterte administration, including the current incessant oil price hikes," Zarate said.

According to a local report, Villegas is also chairperson of the Rajah Buayan Transport Cooperative

Zarate said that Villegas was "in the thick of leading the preparations of Bayan Muna to support the Peoples' Rally of the Leni-Kiko tandem in General Santos on March 15."

On Thursday, an Anakpawis volunteer also was taken by police while he was conducting community work in silang, Cavite.

Anakpawis members were also arrested in Bacoor, Cavite and detained briefly in what the Philippine National Police's office in Calabarzon said was a legitimate anti-drug operation. 

In a related development, Laban ng Masa — which identifies as a "national mass movement-based political center with a socialist direction" — reported efforts to intimidate campaigners for labor leader Leody De Guzman, who is also running for president.

"Ipinapaabot ng Laban ng Masa ang aming suporta sa lahat ng mga biktima ng ganitong harrassment — hindi lang sa mga supporters ni Ka Leody kundi pati na rin sa mga supporters ng iba pang kandidatong ni-reredtag," they said.

(Lakas ng Masa sends our support to all victims of this kind of harassment — not just among Ka Leody's supports, but also to supporters of candidates who have been red-tagged)

Robredo's campaign has called the claim of infiltration "fear-mongering in a cynical effort to dampen the energy, enthusiasm, and commitment of the people's campaign that has emerged to provide massive support to VP Leni's candidacy for president."

READ: A year since 'Bloody Sunday' raids: 34 cops face murder raps, harassment of activists continues

— Franco Luna with a report from Xave Gregorio 

2022 ELECTIONS

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PANFILO LACSON

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RODRIGO DUTERTE

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