A killing a day keeps democracy away

Left activists in the Philippines are being killed at an alarming rate. Oscar Reyes spoke to Millet Morante, a leading figure in Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD, Movement for National Democracy) and Laban Ng Masa (Struggle of the Masses), a coalition of progressive organisations and political parties

October 1, 2006
3 min read


Oscar ReyesOscar Reyes is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and is based in Barcelona. He was formerly an editor of Red Pepper. He tweets at @_oscar_reyes

I have been an activist for 26 years, most recently as leader of the KPD, formed in 1997, and for the past couple of years working as part of the Laban Ng Masa coalition.

The current wave of political killings started when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo came to power in 2001. Over the past five years there have been 749 reported extra-judicial killings, about half of which have been of political activists and journalists. Five leaders of the KPD have been killed in this way since last December – all of whom were based in the provinces.

Last December, Cathy Alcantara, the KPD provincial secretary general in Bataan province, was killed by three men on motorcycles, who came up and shot her. These men are found everywhere in the country, they’re the ones doing the killings. Our study and analysis of such cases shows that these paramilitary groups are mandated by the Philippines military. The pattern of the political killings indicates that they are not random excesses but part of a systematic national policy.

In her state of the nation address, President Arroyo even praised the general under whose command most of these killings are taking place and encouraged him to go on with what he’s doing. This campaign of annihilating the government’s political opponents is being conducted against legitimate dissent from people’s organisations. The president is afraid of the citizens because she cheated her way to victory. The people didn’t vote for her. [Arroyo is widely alleged to have rigged the 2004 elections. ]

The wider context is the ‘war on terror’. Arroyo has proven to be the number one puppet of George Bush, as proven by her eagerness to campaign in the region for the adoption of counter-terrorism bills that are actually a disguised form of state terrorism.

We have been called destabilisers and terrorists. Members of my organisation, and so many others, are playing hide and seek with the government and military forces because we could be shot at any time at the whim of the military.

The killings are usually preceded by ‘stalkers’ and threats. We fear for our lives, of course. But we are not really afraid to the point of being immobilised, because over and above the fear we know that the best defence is to be very visible in political activities and to really sustain the ‘No to political killings’ campaign.

It’s important that we speak out in this way because many of us – grassroots activists, especially – have been victims of the government propaganda that says we are all terrorists, communists or whatever, and the people shouldn’t care whether we’re killed. We’re running against time because the government campaign is increasing its intensity. In fact, over the past few days I have heard daily reports of extra-judicial killings.

We have launched a national anti-assassination campaign through the Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights (CCHR).

Laban Ng Mesa has a broader political goal, though – not just to stop the killings but for the whole Arroyo government to step down or be ousted because its programmes are anti-people and pro-foreign multinational companies.

We’re encouraging various forms of international solidarity right now, ranging from an international fact-finding mission to encouraging Europeans to lobby their governments not to support the Arroyo regime. Perhaps these will send a message to the Arroyo government to stop all these programmes that are making the Philippine people suffer so very much.For further information read Amnesty International\’s report on Philippines political killings


Oscar ReyesOscar Reyes is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and is based in Barcelona. He was formerly an editor of Red Pepper. He tweets at @_oscar_reyes


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences

The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally

Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change

Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform

Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out