By ILOCOS HUMAN RIGHTS ALLIANCE
Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA-KARAPATAN), an alliance of human rights advocates in the Ilocos Region condemns the threat and harassment perpetrated by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) detailed at the Municipality of Sudipen in La Union against students of the University of the Philippines Manila.
The students – Patricia Andrea S. Angeles, Glelil Charlotte A. Cabalitan, and Aries Raphael R. Pascua, all under the Development Studies Program are doing their research and advocacy work as part of their 2017 Summer Practicum. Their work is in coordination with the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation) and the North Luzon Amburayan Conference of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (NLAC-UCCP).
Despite going through regular protocols, informing the local chief executives (from the provincial to the barangay level) and formal introduction by Reverend Nieves Sixto of UCCP San Francisco, members of PNP Sudipen put the students under surveillance. The police also went to the house where they are staying and told the owner that they are members of the New People’s Army (NPA). Retired PNP Senior Superintendent Noel Amoyen also allegedly informed the barangay chairman of San Jose that the students belong to the kabila (the other side) that made the official apprehensive towards them.
IHRA-KARAPATAN is alarmed that guests of an established religious institution like the UCCP are not spared from such violations from armed state agents. The actions made against the students, whose presence in the area was co-facilitated by NLAC-UCCP are not just attack against civil liberties but to the institution and beliefs that NLAC-UCCP represents. Since the students are officially undertaking an activity that is part of UP Manila’s program, the PNP’s action can also be viewed as an affront to the university.
Under President Duterte’s Oplan Kapayapaan and Oplan Tokhang, more and more individuals are falling victims to human rights violations. Threat and harassment against people’s organizations, their leaders and members are on the rise in the region. The same pattern of vilification and surveillance have been reported in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. Just last month, members of the 7th Infantry Division subjected the office of IHRA-KARAPATAN in Candon City to surveillance and harassed the staff. The same unit also accused members of Anakbayan and STOP Exploitation in Brgy. Bugnay, Candon City as members and supporters of the NPA. Troops under the 81st Infantry Battalion are also quick to accuse residents and officials opposing their encampments in communities and public places as NPA supporters.
The objectives of the PNP, AFP and rightist individuals like retired Sr. Supt. Amoyen are clear – they intend to instill fear and animosity towards progressive organizations and any efforts to organize and empower the people. Without any guise, the military and police intend to project imaginary threats in order to curtail the people’s rights and liberties, and set the scene for the declaration of a nationwide Martial law.
The local government of Sudipen should rectify these iniquitous and illegal actions, and reprimand all those who were involved in the incidents. At the very least, the PNP should issue an apology to the students and the host organizations.
IHRA-KARAPATAN challenges the Commission on Human Rights to take action against the “validation” and surveillance against innocent civilians. It also calls on the people to be more vigilant and relentless in asserting their rights, exposing the atrocities of the AFP and PNP and resisting the proposed extension and nationwide Martial Law.###