Activists in N. Luzon decry intensifying surveillance, threats

A document with the title “MUNICIPALITY OF TINOC (Target Persons),” which bears the logo of the the Charlie Company of the 86th Battalion (Highlander) of the 5th Infantry Division (North Star), Philippine Army, listed the names of human rights defenders and development workers in the Cordillera and Ilocos regions who are now the subject of intense surveillance and threatening text messages.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Human rights defenders and development workers in the Cordillera and Ilocos regions reported incidents of surveillance, red baiting and harassment by suspected state security forces.

In an urgent action alert, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA)-Karapatan raised concern over recent incidents believed to be perpetrated by elements and troops under the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and the 5th Infantry Division.

Since January this year, Jude Baggo, secretary general of the CHRA-Karapatan has been receiving text messages warning him to cease from his political activities otherwise he would be arrested. One of the messages he received associated his presence and activities in Ifugao to the activities of the New People’s Army (NPA). The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). This April, he was threatened with imprisonment “just after the elections.”

According to the CHRA, reliable sources validated that the messages were from state security forces.

Baggo and his colleagues also noted surveillance and monitoring of his whereabouts by suspicious individuals.

William Bugatti, a paralegal of the CHRA-Karapatan also reported incidents of surveillance and harassment against him. He was barred several times from visiting political detainees at the Ifugao Provincial 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.

Both Baggo and Buggati 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).” The two-page document, a copy of which was obtained by CHRA-Karapatan in October 2012, bears the logos of the Charlie Company of the 86th Battalion (Highlander) of the 5th Infantry Division (North Star), Philippine Army. It contains names of individuals, their alleged association with the NPA, mobile phone numbers, organizations, and the remarks/assessment by the 86th IBPA and the 5th ID.

Among those in the list are members and leaders of legal people’s organizations, human rights defenders and development workers from the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC), Montanosa Research and Development Center (MRDC) and the Ifugao Resources and Development Center (IRDC).

According to the CHRA, the 86th IBPA has been notorious in Northern Luzon for its human rights violations since President Benigno Aquino III came into office.

In 2012, the human rights group documented various human rights violations perpetrated by this particular Army unit such as illegal detention and torture, destruction and divestment of properties, several counts of threats/harassment/intimidation.

An officer of the 86th IBPA, Capt. Danilo Lalin is the primary suspect in a rape case involving a minor in Mankayan, Benguet last March 2012.

The same unit was also responsible for filing charges of murder, frustrated murder and attempted murder against youth leader Mildred Salang-ey in 2011. The charges were eventually dismissed due to lack of evidence.

This unit also filed murder charges against activists Grayson Naogsan, Rene Boy Abiva, Virgilio Corpuz, Randy Vegas and Raul Camposano who were arrested in separate incidents.

Abiva is organizer of ACT Teachers party list. Corpuz is the regional coordinator of Cagayan Valley for Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Opereytor Nationwide (Piston). Naogsan is the son of a rebel leader in the Cordillera.

They are detained at the Ifugao Provincial Jail.

Meanwhile, Vegas and Camposano are both long-time union organizers of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government (COURAGE) who were arrested on December 3, 2012 in the National Capital Region. They are now detained at the Camarines Norte Provincial Jail for other fabricated charges.

Claudine Panayo and Fernando Alikes of the Ifugao Resources Development Center have also reported incidents of surveillance on them 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 serious warnings of actual arrest, detention and even graver forms of human rights violations,” Audrey Beltran, CHRA deputy secretary general, said.

The group blamed Aquino’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan for the recent incidents of harassment and threats. “Oplan Bayanihan deliberately associates human rights defenders, development workers and civilians as members or supporters of the 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 trumped up charges or even possible extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance,” Beltran added.

“It is unjust that those who bring services to far-flung communities of farmers and indigenous peoples are vilified and threatened,” Beltran said. “Development workers and their NGOs [non-government organizations] and POs [people’s organizations] provide much needed social services and livelihood assistance to communities and sectors suffering from severe poverty and government neglect. It is condemnable that human rights workers are being silenced by the State that is mandated to uphold and defend human rights.” ()

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