Women’s Front: Supporting women human rights defenders

By INNABUYOG
www.nordis.net

In light of the recent waves of attacks against women human rights defenders in the Cordillera by the 7th Infantry Division (ID) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Northern Luzon Command, we, in Innabuyog, together with the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance are urgently appealing to our fellow kakailyan and other peace loving citizens in the region and the entire Philippines to support the campaign, “Women Against Tyranny.”

In the past three months, political persecution endangered the lives and security of women human rights defenders Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Sherry Mae Soledad, Joanne Villanueva, Rachel Mariano and Asia Isabella Gepte. In August 2017, reports reached us that the 5 were named in a charge sheet with 13 other individuals accusing them of being in a purported gun-firing incident involving the New People’s Army (NPA) that transpired in a community in Ilocos Sur. In the months that followed, we discovered other similar cases consecutively filed against them yet in 2 other separate incidents. Spurious criminal charges are being hurled by the 7th ID of the AFP against these 5 women human rights defenders, one of them a member of Innabuyog.

In yet another case, in the past months another member of Innabuyog and Kabataan Partylist Abra Chapter, Shirley Ann Angiwot, has been constantly denigrated in social media by the AFP thru the 24th IB accusing her and other church workers, one of whom a Roman Catholic Bishop Servio Utleg who is an NDFP Peace Negotiations Observer as “enemies of the state”.

Furthermore, Rina Libongen, a cultural activist and presently a youth organizer in Benguet has been tailed by state security agents, continuously harassing and threatening her through phone calls and text messages.

The above-mentioned 7 women human rights defenders are staff members of various cause-oriented NGO’s who are doing development work in marginalized communities in the Cordillera and are active in the promotion of indigenous people’s rights and women’s rights.

Moreover, soldiers from the 50th Infantry Battalion of the AFP are relentless in persecuting community leaders of Innabuyog-Kalinga tagging them as members and supporters of the NPA.

We believe that these sinister acts by the state and its security forces are part of a systematic campaign to intimidate, sow fear and malign the character of persons who are legitimately working in marginalized communities which are lacking of government support and where resistance to state programs and policies detrimental to the people is strong. We deem these actions as just means to blatantly pressure human rights defenders to stop their work in upholding what is right and just.

Furthermore we also consider these undertakings as money-making ploys. Early this year, the AFP came up with a reward scheme of compensating those who are able to neutralize so-called enemies of the state in which the New People’s Army is tagged as such, and where open, legal and legitimate people’s organizations are lumped together with them.

We fear that if this attempt remains unstopped and be allowed to continue, human rights violations will escalate that may even lead again to extra judicial killings in a scale which has happened during the time of General Jovito Palparan under the Arroyo regime and the present war on drugs by the Duterte government.

We then enjoin the public to demand for a stop to the persecution of women human rights defenders and political activists by the Philippine state and its security forces and for the dropping of the trumped-up charges filed against them.

We also call on women human rights defenders to stay vigilant and remain steadfast in safeguarding our rights and our dignity.

We urge our fellow women and the rest of the Filipino people to actively take part in the campaign to protect and uphold our civil and political rights. # nordis.net

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