Kontra Daya lead convener Danny Arao (screengrab from The Press Room)

By Ian Gabriel Trinidad

The recent spate of killings and red-tagging of activists and community organizers are a prelude to election-related violence as the 2022 polls near, an election watchdog said.

Kontra Daya lead convener Danilo “Danny” Arao said in a “The Press Room” podcast that activist and mass leaders were being targeted because of their involvement in Congress.

“Minsan ‘yung mga mass leader ng peasant group nagiging bahagi rin ng Anakpawis, Bayan Muna, and all other party list groups na na-re-red-tag,” Arao said.

“Kaya nga ‘yung massacre na nangyari sa Southern Tagalog ay hindi mo rin mahihiwalay sa nangyayaring election-related violence,” he added.

He was referring to the coordinated police operation in Calabarzon last March 7, where nine activists were killed and six were arrested.

These killings, according to Arao, are technically not “election-related violence,” as the campaign period for the 2022 presidential elections has yet to start. 

But as politicians begin early campaigning, early election violence also ensue, Arao said.

Arao said these attacks were nothing new, citing the killings of Bayan Muna coordinators in the 2007 and 2010 elections after the party-list group topped the elections in 2001 and 2004. 

Laying the groundwork

Veteran journalist Manuel “Manny” Mogato said that since it was unlikely to remove the party-list system in the Congress, community organizers were being targeted to weaken their chances in the upcoming elections.

There is a “distinct possibility” that the crackdowns are being used to weaken the party-list system, Arao said.

The party-list system, according to Kontra Daya’s research, is being used by political dynasties and politicians to stay in power.

Arao warned that the “sweeping” of party list groups was already happening through efforts to disqualify certain party-list groups from Congress.

On Feb. 18, National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict filed a petition before the Commission of Elections to disqualify Gabriela.

President Rodrigo Duterte also called for charter change in January to scrap the party-list system to bar communist rebels from the Congress.