By UBBON DIBINABAI AD IFUGAO, IFUGAO PEASANT MOVEMENT, AND PUN-OOHAN DI NUNGKANOMNOMAN AD IFUGAO
The Ubbon di Binabai ad Ifugao (UBI), Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM) and Pun-oohaan di Nungkanomnoman ad Ifugao (PNI), strongly condemn the recent attacks on six women activists in the Cordillera region by the 7th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Northern Luzon Command and to all human rights defenders across the country. The six women human rights defenders, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Sherry Mae Soledad, Joanne Villanueva, Rachel Mariano, Asia Isabella Gepte and Shirley Ann Angiwot have experienced political persecution and trumped up charges along with 18 other individuals for frustrated murder and multiple attempted murders in relation to a supposed gun firing incident in Sigay, Ilocos Sur on August 4, 2017.
A certain Cpl. Melvin Sevilla Saura alleges that the 5 women activists are of a group of New People’s Army pinpointed by the AFP. There were also enties on social media maligning Shirley Ann Angiwot and Roman Catholic Bishop Sergio Utleg and other church workers as “enemies of the State” connected with the NPA.
All 6 women activists are from legitimate legal organizations. Sarah and Sherry Mae who are both with the Katinnulong dagiti Umili ti Amianan-Regional Development Center (Kaduami-RDC Northern Luzon). Sarah is also one of the pioneers of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Ifugao Resource and Development Center (IRDC) while Rachel is with the Cordillera Health, Educaiton, Services and Training in the Cordillera (Chestcore). Villanueva works with the Cordillera Women’s Education, Action, Research Center (CWEARC) and Asia is a convenor of Binnadang, a network of advocates supporting the Cordillera indigenous peoples’ issues and campaigns. Shirley Ann is a member of the Innabuyog-Gabriela. Their organizations are in the forefront, actively engaging in the Cordillera people’s movement for the defense of ancestral land, right to self-determination, genuine peace and democracy.
Here in Ifugao, there were over a dozen political prisoners since 2009 sued with trumped up charges of murder, frustrated murders, illegal possession of firearms and ammunitions, making the province look like a favorite target of the AFP to silence dissent. These state security forces continue to conduct massive vilification and red-tagging actions against our organizations and members.
Recently, a petition circulated to eject the people living in the IPM staff house owned by the Tanguid Family in Poblacion East Lagawe. The IPM confronted the Barangay council for the malicious petition and it exposed that it was led by an AFP agent, whose identity they were not sure of, and that the barangay council had no hand in that petition.
Harassment by suspected state security forces is also continuing where recently Fernando Alikes Jr., an organic farmer and church leader, has been receiving calls from suspected state security agents pretending to be NPA commanders of Ifugao and Nueva Viscaya with threatening massages. Suspected state security agents posing as NPAs demanding ransom and “assistance” with threats had also made their rounds with mayors, elected leaders, and priests in Ifugao.
These harassments and political persecutions against progressive organizations happen most while we conduct our campaigns to uphold indigenous peoples (IPs) rights and to correct the historical injustices against the Ifugao People. The Ifugao Ancestral Domains continue to be threatened with the entry of multi national companies and big business investors for renewable energy who want to capitalize on the IPs resources.
Our organizations together with the local people’s organizations on the ground only want to ensure that every proposed project inside our ancestral domains also include genuine development for the IPs. Now, empowered indigenous peoples organizations are demanding what they see as a fair royalty share from the Magat Hydro Electric Plant where SN Aboitiz only shares part of their profits as mandated obligations to the government such as taxes and Corporate Social Responsibility contributions (CSR) and not to the IPs. The IPs here demand for a negotiated royalty share in the profits produced by the Magat Dam which has been operating for more than 30 years now. This as part of the Ifugao IPs quest to correct the historical injustices committed against them.
The recent and continuing attacks of the AFP are a total contradiction to the culture of IPs in the Cordillera specially here in Ifugao, where it is absolutly dishonorable to attack defenseless and innocent civilians especially women. Even in the olden times of tribal and clan wars, it is a grave curse upon warriors and their clan to target or hurt women and children. What honor does one gain from preying on civilian activists where their only weapon is their voice and the truth to empower the downtrodden?
The defense of land and resources, life and honor is imperative to Cordillerans and people who understand the struggles of the Cordillerans. No amount of harassment or trumped-up charges shall stop the IPs of the Cordillera to stand up for their IP rights and the right to self-determination. Fascist attacks are shamelesly meaningless and dishonorable, it has to stop! Instead, find a solution to the root causes of peoples sufferings, and build peaceful communities based on justice.
Hands off women activists! Uphold indigenous peoples rights and human rights! # nordis.net