By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
STA. CRUZ, Ilocos Sur — Community folks together with human rights defenders staged a protest action along the Sta. Cruz highway in Ilocos Sur calling for the pull out of troops deployed in Cordillera and Ilocos villages as they condemned the attacks against them by state security forces under the 7th Division of the Philippine Army.
Nicasio Lacaden, a leader of a farmers organization Timpuyog ti Umili ti Karayan Buaya (TUKB) said that military deployment to their communities brought them terror and human rights violations.
Lacaden said that members of Lucbuban Farmers Association, a member of TUKB fell victim to a vilification campaign launched by the military and police. He said that the farmers are being accused to be New People’s Army (NPA) supporters and are being being subjected to harassment by soldiers. He said that six farmers who were looking for their carabaos were illegally searched and detained by soldiers (AFP) in Barangay Baybayading in Salcedo town on July 25. The farmers were released six hours after to the municipal police.
“I myslef is being harassed and vilified, the military accused me to be an NPA supporter,” Lacaden said.
“We are a group of organized farmers, our organization works to help each other and also assist farmers in accessing government services due them, what is wrong with that?” Lacaden said.
Lacaden also said that farmers left farm lands near the military camps unattended due to fear of being harassed or worse killed by soldiers on mere suspicion that they are NPA supporters.
“Farming is a farmer’s source of livelihood, if he does not tend his farm he will go hungry but when tending the farm becomes life threatening what ought a farmer do?” Lacaden said.
Rachel Mariano, a staff of the Community Health Education Services and Trainings in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore) condemned government soldiers for filing false charges against her and four other women development workers and activists.
Mariano said that Chestcore is a non-government organization empowering communities neglected by government to be able to manage their basic health care needs. She said that they teach and train communities on basic health care services to help them cope with inaccessibility of health care providers and hospitals.
“We bring basic health care services to communities neglected by government and what do we get in return, trumped up charges and harassment from the military and police, this is unacceptable,” Maraino said.
The other women human rights defenders in the Cordillera facing trumped-up charges are Sarah Abellon-Alikes and Sherry Mae Soledad of Kaduami-RDC, Joanne Villanueva of the Cordillera Women’s Education, Action, Research Center and Asia Isabella Gepte convenor of Binnadang and a staff of the joint secretariat of the NDFP nominated section to the Joint Monitoring Committee on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
Kastan, the local chapter of the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) in Abra, condemned the soldiers of the 24th IB of the Philippine Army for vilifying church people that include Bishop Sergio Utleg as “enemis of the state”. KASTAN Secretariat Shirley Ann Angiwot and Teresa Forag were subjected to grave threats and harassment by accusing them of kidnapping minors.
Mudiit People’s Organization leaders were also subjected to illegal searches of their homes. The 24 th IBPA is responsible for the indiscriminate airstrikes that burned forests in Malibcong, Abra last March after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the AFP to “flatten the hills”.
Reports from the Ilocos Human Rights Advocates (IHRA) and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) state that militarisation is heightened in areas where the 7th ID operates. Community leaders including elected LGU officials are threatened, harassed and intimidated, if not coopted by the army forces. Illegal arrests are committed against peasant leaders in Ilocos, including a minor in Abra. The 7th ID elements have also been conducting public disinformation campaigns in schools and communities through forums and social media posts.
The 81st IBPA is responsible for 225 cases of human rights violations which had victimized 840 individuals and 9,000 families in the Ilocos Region. Most of the victims are leaders, members and allies of peoples organizations such as the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation), Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA), Anakbayan and Ilocos Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos).
These same army units are responsible for the recent harassment on leaders and members of the Save Quirino Movement (SQM), a people’s organization in Quirino, Ilocos Sur which actively campaigns against destructive mining operations of Lepanto and entry of new mining explorations. CPA Chairperson Windel Bolinget, Vice-Chairperson Xavier Akien, and Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC) staff members were also illegally detained at San Emilio after attending an SQM meeting in Quirino last October 27.
Windel Bolinget, CPA chairperson, said that state fascism heightened this year through the present administration’s Oplan Kapayapaan. He said that the people’s taxes are used to beat people’s legitimate protests against anti-people projects and programs to protect the interest of the ruling class.
“The 7 th ID’s attacks on the people, human rights defenders and development activists has deprived poor farmers and indigenous peoples in neglected communities of the basic social services that people’s organizations have been able to provide. The government should heed the lessons of the past – that oppression only breeds resistance. Our people has a proud history of toppling tyrants and we can do it again,” Bolinget said. # nordis.net