Their dialogue and complaint-filing at the Department of Justice may hang in the air for the moment, but the voices of the members of Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) were not silenced as they sought justice, in a protest in front of the DOJ office at Padre Faura, Ermita, Manila on July 2.
COURAGE was supposed to submit complaints about 25 cases of harassment on government employees and union organizers by suspected military and police forces, but DOJ Undersecretary Jose Justiniano was unavailable.
“We do not only expect the justice department to investigate, but we are challenging them to exhaust all the remedies and resources they have to command the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to explain why the harassments and threats are being done,” said COURAGE national president Ferdinand Gaite.
He said that the DOJ must press these agencies to reveal what he called an “oplan” perpetuated against progressive unionists and activists.
“When the progressive masses are rising in numbers, the government responds with threats. The government is afraid because as government employees inside the system, we (are the ones who) expose, and (are) very capable to see graft and corruption… and we are now being rewarded by threats and harassment,” Gaite highlighted.
In a COURAGE statement, Gaite said that all “poison letters and unwelcome visits” to unionists and activists followed the same pattern, of the suspected government agents branding the leaders as “communists,” giving them numbers to call and leaving them with threats if they fail to do so.
Gaite told Bulatlat that the “rehearsed” spread of “poison letters” at an alarming rate created disturbance among government employees, unionists and activists all over the country, and should be stopped.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Campaign for the Advancement of Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (HKCAHRPP) condemned the incidents of harassment and called on the Aquino administration to put a stop to the attacks against human rights defenders in the Philippines.
The HKCAHRPP cited the case of Raquel Toquero, COURAGE national organizer and her husband Mervin, program unit head of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, who had an “unwelcome visit” at their home in Cavite by two men who claimed to be soldiers. The men said they know Raquel is an organizer, and a “communist,” and that she should contact them if she “wants to change,” then left a note with the cellphone number, 09261430628, and the name, “Delia.”
“This incident imposes grave fear on our fellow workers, because it happened inside the fences of their home, with their children around, and even on a Sunday morning before they went to church,” Gaite told Bulatlat in an interview.
Gaite said that COURAGE is also planning to file complaints with the United Nations (UN) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).