Jose Jerry Catalogo, an officer of National Federation of Sugar Workers, was killed on 23 June, 2020, by suspected state agents while he was feeding his carabao at 5 in the morning.
Prior to the incident, he had reported being followed by unidentified individuals. The killing of Catalogo takes place against the backdrop of increased harassment and intimidation of trade unionists and human rights defenders by state agents.
On 3 July, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the draconian Anti-Terror Bill into law. The new law grants state security forces excessive powers to target militants and progressive groups, while legal experts say the broad provisions of the bill could facilitate rights abuses together with the Administration’s war on drugs, and could allow privacy infringements and the suppression of peaceful dissent, including on social media.
The Anti-Terror Law will have far reaching implications for trade union organising, including the mobility and security of labour organisers, educators and labour rights defenders.
Human rights organisations, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Tanggol Magsasaka, said that 262 farmers and peasant leaders were killed between July 2016 and July 2020, 190 of them killed in a five month period.
Tanggol Magsasaka has documented extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests and illegal detention, filing of fabricated criminal charges, Red-tagging and vilification, torture, surveillance, bombing of peasant communities and an unending list of human rights violations committed by state forces.
According to Front Line Defenders, land and environmental rights defenders and defenders from indigenous communities face very serious risks in the Philippines as they attempt to peacefully defend their land and oppose major industrial projects. These HRDs are disproportionately represented in the figures of the HRDs killed.