Denounce harassment, villification of Cordillera human rights defenders

By Cordillera Human Rights Alliance

Dear friends,

Human rights workers and development workers in the Cordillera region are under seriousthreat with recent incidents of harassment, surveillance and political vilification. Theincidents were perpetrated by elements and troops under the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the 5th Infantry Division as part of the implementation of the Aquino government’s National Internal SecurityPlan Operation Plan Bayanihan (Operation Plan Cooperation).

We are appealing for your support to raise concern and denounce these incidents:

  • Since January of this year, Jude Baggo, the Secretary General of the CordilleraHuman Rights Alliance – KARAPATAN (CHRA-Karapatan) was subjected to threats warning him to cease from his political activities otherwise he will be arrested. This April, he was threatened with imprisonment “just after the elections”. Reliable sources validated that the messages were from State security forces. He and colleagues had also noted surveillance and monitoring on his whereabouts by suspicious individuals. One of the messages he received associated his presence and activities in Ifugao to the activities of the New People’s Army (NPA). Photo by CHRA | www.nordis.net

  • William Bugatti, a paralegal of the CHRA-Karapatan in Ifugao has constantly beenaccused of being a member of the NPA. This has resulted to notable incidents of surveillance and harassment against him that derailed him from doing his work. Hewas even barred several times from visiting political detainees at the IfugaoProvincial Jail. The Jail warden claims that there is a “Regional Memorandum”stating that Bugatti is not allowed to enter the jail and visit the political detainees.

    Bugatti and Baggo were listed as #21 and #22 respectively and tagged as “UTAK NG NPA” (Brains of the NPA) in a document entitled “MUNICIPALITY OF TINOC (Target Persons)” bearing the logos of Charlie Company of the 86th Battalion (Highlander) of the 5th Infantry Division (North Star), Philippine Army. The two-page document received by the CHRA-Karapatan last October 2012 listed names of individuals, their alleged association with the New People’s Army (NPA), mobile phone numbers, organizations, and the remarks/assessment by the 86th IBPA and the 5th ID. The list was composed of names of members and leaders of legal people’sorganizations, human rights defenders and development workers from the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC), Montanosa Research andDevelopment Center (MRDC) and the Ifugao Resources and Development Center (IRDC).

There is strong reason to believe that the 86th IBPA and elements of the 5th Infantry Divisiona re behind these cases especially with the “Target Persons” list. The AFP’s denial of the existence of this document runs in contrary with the cases of harassment, surveillance andother human rights violations experienced by the people included in the list.

The 86th IBPA has been notorious in Northern Luzon for its human rights violations sincePresident Aquino came into office. It is composed of integrees from the paramilitary group Cordillera People’s Liberation Army. In 2012, the 86th IBPA were the perpetrators of varioushuman rights violations such as illegal detention and torture, destruction and divestment of properties, several counts of threats / harassment / intimidation. An officer of this unit, Capt.Danilo Lalin is the primary suspect in a rape case involving a minor in Mankayan, Benguetlast March 2012. The 86th IBPA was responsible for the trumped up charges against youthleader Mildred Salang-ey in 2011which were dismissed due to lack of evidence. This unit also filed trumped up charges against Grayson Naogsan, Rene Boy Abiva, Virgilio Corpuz,Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano. Naogsan, Abiva and Corpuz are currently detained atthe Ifugao Provincial Jail. Vegas and Camposano are both long-time union organizers of theConfederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government (COURAGE) at the National Capital Region.

Aside from human rights workers, development workers in Ifugao and the rest of the regionhave experienced similar threats on their security. Claudine Panayo and Fernando Alikes of the Ifugao Resources Development Center have also reported incidents of surveillance onthem and their office especially this April and May. Willy Kuan, a development worker of the Regional Development Center – Katinnulong Daguiti Umili ti Amianan a Luzon (RDC-KADUAMI) received threat messages through his mobile phone this April as well.

We are alarmed and convinced that the intensity of threats and political vilification are seriouswarnings of actual arrest, detention and even graver forms of human rights violations. Oplan Bayanihan deliberately associates human rights defenders, development workers and civiliansas members or supporters of NPA to condition the public that they are “enemies of the State”or “terrorists” and thus serve as a prelude or justification to illegal arrests based on trumpedup charges or even possible extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance. Serious concernhas to be raised against this.

It is unjust that those who bring services to far-flung communities of farmers and indigenous peoples are vilified and threatened. Development workers and their NGO’s and PO’s providemuch needed social services and livelihood assistance to communities and sectors sufferingfrom severe poverty and government neglect. It is condemnable that human rights workersare being silenced by the State that is mandated to uphold and defend human rights.

Please send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

  1. An independent investigation of the surveillance, threats and harassment againsthuman rights workers and development workers in the Cordillera region.

  2. An end to political vilification of people’s organizations, development workers,and human rights defenders maliciously tagged as “enemies of the State” or“terrorists”.

  3. The prosecution of those involved in human rights violations, specifically,elements of the 86th Infantry Battalion and the 5th Infantry Division.

  4. The Aquino administration to withdraw its counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan that targets innocent and unarmed civilians and activists.

  5. The resumption of peace negotiations between the Republic of the Philippinesand the National Democratic Front as a means to achieve just and lasting peace.

  6. The Aquino administration to be reminded that the Philippines is a party to theUniversal Declaration of Human Rights, various human rights treaties andinstruments, and the International Humanitarian Law, thus it is bound toobserve all of these.

You may send your communications to:

 

H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
President of the Republic

Malacañang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742 1641 / 929 3968
E-mail: op@president.gov.ph

Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 636 0701 to 066
Fax: (+632 638 2216
E-mail: stqd.papp@opapp.gov.ph

Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue,
Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600
Fax: (+632) 982-5600
Email: osnd@philonline.com, dnd.opla@gmail.com

Atty. Leila De Lima
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura Street, Manila, Philippines
Direct Line:521-1908
Trunkline: 523-84-81 loc.211/214
Fax: (+632) 523-9548
Email: lmdelima@doj.gov.ph, lmdelima.doj@gmail.com

Hon. Loretta Ann P. Rosales
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
SAAC Building, UP Complex
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
Email: chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com, lorettann@gmail.com 

Atty. Harold Kub-Aron
CHR – Cordillera Administrative Region
3rd Floor SSS Baguio Branch Building,
Harrison Road 2600
Baguio City, Philippines
Tel: (074) 619-9089
Telefax: (074) 619-9088
Email:chrp_car@yahoo.com

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below.

APPEAL FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION
Prepared by: CORDILLERA HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE
55 Ferguson Road,
Baguio City 2600
Philippines
Fax: + 63 74 443 7159
Telephone: + 63 74 304 4239
Email: chra.karapatan@gmail.com

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