MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Heightened Surveillance and Harassment of Cordillera Political Activists

Published by MAC on 2006-02-16

Heightened Surveillance and Harassment of Cordillera Political Activists

Could Lead to More Political Killings

Action Alert by Cordillera Peoples Alliance, February

Over the recent period, leaders and offices of the Cordillera Peoples' Alliance (CPA), BAYAN MUNA and other progressive organizations have conspicuously been under surveillance by suspected military elements. In October 2005, there was an attempt to break into the CPA office by unknown men who cut off the power source and telephone line, destroyed the padlock of the gate, and attempted to forcibly open the door. When one of the CPA staff sleeping in the office shouted, the men ran away. During the Christmas holidays, several suspicious vans with tinted windows were often parked outside the CPA office, and threatening phone calls were made to those guarding the CPA office urging them to leave.

In addition, many CPA, Bayan Muna and other leaders and political activists observed clear indications that they are closely monitored. Ms. Joan Carling was closely followed by a suspicious motorcycle on her way home from the CPA office at 8:00 PM in January and the lock of their house door was found tampered. Her car was broken into last February 10, while parked outside her home in the evening. Unknown persons were also observed to be monitoring her house since the night after this incident until the present. Mr. Windel Bolinget, Secretary-General of CPA and Manny Loste, Bayan Muna Cordillera Regional Coordinator and National Vice-President are also being closely monitored in their homes and offices. The wife of Mr. Ampi Mangile, Vice-Chairperson of CPA, while in an isolated area, was one time almost forced to ride a suspicious van with military-looking men inside, but she resisted.

There are numerous other incidents, too many to mention, that all point to a heightened surveillance and harassment of Cordillera leaders, activists and organizations. There is a now clear trend and pattern, possibly leading to the worst scenario of more political killings of activists.

While the military is expected to deny outright any military plan to liquidate Cordillera activists, the threat remains very real and serious. There have been unabated killings of activists, human rights defenders, and NGO workers in the different regions of the country since 2001, with 272 documented cases. Most of these killings took place after victims were subjected to intense surveillance by suspected military elements or their hired goons. In particular, three NGO workers in Northern Luzon were killed by suspected hired goons or paramilitary elements just last year. Romeo Sanchez, BAYAN MUNA Coordinator of the Ilocos Region was killed in Baguio City in March 9, 2005. Pepe Manegdeg, a Church worker of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines was brutally murdered with 22 gunshot wounds in San Esteban, Ilocos Sur on November 28, 2005. Albert Terredano, a Human Rights advocate and employee of the Department of Agrarian Reform was killed in Bangued, Abra, on November 29, 2005. Until now, the killers of the three are still on the loose and the family and friends of the victims helplessly wait for justice to be served.

Meanwhile, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo remains silent and complacent over the continued killings of defenceless political dissenters. In fact, the killings are part and parcel of a conscious policy of the regime to target key leaders of legal sectoral and people's organizations. The Oplan Bantay Laya clearly lays down a policy of neutralizing leaders of suspected "front" organizations with no clear basis nor legal justification. The policy of the national government to brutally suppress those who are in progressive legal organizations and defenceless in the face of violent attempts on their lives illustrates the complete disregard for human rights by the Arroyo regime. Due process of law is clearly ignored and violated by the government in their attempt to cripple and paralyze legitimate organizations and instil fear amongst their members and followers. It is a very treacherous and cowardly policy of the Arroyo government, whose power to govern is already based on the power of the gun.

These leaders of the Cordillera mass movement are peace-loving, committed citizens fighting for social justice, peace, human rights and democracy. They have selflessly devoted their time and energy to the peoples' movement for fundamental social transformation. They have been exposing the wanton violation of human rights and indigenous peoples' rights, as well the economic and political policies of the Arroyo regime. They do not deserve to be harassed and treated like "criminals with a shoot to kill order" by those who claim to be the protectors of the people. Any attempt to silence Cordillera activists must be exposed and denounced as a continuing wanton violation of human rights and democracy.

We then call on our friends, partners, associates and peace-loving citizens to denounce the continued surveillance, harassment and threats on the lives of Cordillera activists. Let us resist the worsening political repression in the Philippines. We appeal for support in exerting pressure on the Philippine military and the Arroyo regime to stop political killings and respect human rights.

Write letters of concern and protest to the following (to the addresses below).Kindly cc a copy of your letter to CPA.

Action Alert issued by:
Joan Carling, Chairperson
Cordillera Peoples' Alliance
February 16, 2006
Baguio City, Philippines

website: www.cpaphils.org
Email: cpa@cpaphils.org
fax no: +63-74-443-7159
tel no: +63-74-44202115

SAMPLE OF LETTER OF CONCERN: Political killings in the Philippines

Hon. Avelino J Cruz, Jr
Secretary
Department of National Defence
Rm. 301, DND BuildingCamp Genereal Emilio F. Aguinaldo
1110 Quezon City
Philippines

Tel: +632-911-0488; +632-911-1746
Fax: +632- 911-6213

Dear sir,

We wish to raise our serious concern over the worsening intimidation, harassment and political killings of leaders and members of legal organizations in the Philippines. In particular, we are informed of the heightened surveillance of leaders and members of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and BAYAN-MUNA Cordillera along with other progressive organizations by suspected military elements or their associates. The staggering number of documented cases of political killings in the Philippines is already alarming, and we believe this heightened surveillance and monitoring leaders of the Cordillera mass movement may also lead to their being brutally silenced.

CPA has been active in international networks of civil society for the promotion of social justice and human rights of which our organization is also part of. We strongly condemn and denounce political killings as the worst form of political repression. It is an outright violation of due process and international standards for the respect of human rights. We are then saddened and outraged by the eminent threats of political killings of Cordillera activists and others, who are merely exercising their democratic rights and advancing the legal peoples movement for social justice and transformation. We believe there will never be any justification to political killings of defenceless members of any legal organization or any civilian.

We then appeal to your office to immediately take concrete steps within your authority to avert any plans of more political killings, and put a stop to the harassment and intimidation of leaders and members of legal organizations in the Cordillera and other regions in the country. The Philippine government is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as to the UN Covenant on civil and political rights. Thus, it then becomes the duty of the Philippine government, especially its armed forces to ensure and protect the human rights of its citizens, including those who are critical of the government.

We shall be monitoring further developments in the Philippines, and shall continue to raise our concern on human rights violations and related issues.

Thank you for your attention.

Respectfully,
cc: Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President
Republic of the Philippines
New Executive Building
Malacañang Palace Compund
J.P. Laurel St., San Miguel Manila
Tel: +632-564-1451 to 80; +632-736-1010
Fax: +632-735-8005
corres@op.gov.ph

Hon. Purificacion C. Valera Quisumbing
Chairperson
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Building,
Commonwealth Avenue
UP Complex, Diliman, Quezon City
+632-928-5655; +632- 926-6188/ +632-929-0102
drpvq@chr.gov.ph

Hon. Jannette Cansing Serrano
Chairperson
National Commission on Indigenous Peoples
2nd Floor, N, dela Merced Building, corner West & Quezon Avenues
Quezon City
Tel: +632-373-96-33; +632-373-9787
Telefax: +632-373-9765
janserrano@yahoo.com

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