By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — “Asserting our rights should not be a reason for getting killed.”
This said Arsenio Gaboy, a barangay council man of Sucao village in Licuan-Baay town, Abra province during a short program that followed a march rally on December 10 as part of the commemoration of International Human Rights Day here.
“We are fighting for our right to life, to our land and to our sources of livelihood, what is wrong with that?” Galoy asked.
Galoy together with around 200 other representatives of people’s organizations in the Cordillera and other progressive organizations marched through the main streets of Baguio City condemning the continuing human rights violations, fascism and culture of impunity. The march ended with a program at the Igorot Park.
Ina (Mother) Dolores Pacliw, chairperson of the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM) said that the state of human rights has gone from bad to worse.
“At my age, I have witnessed continuing human rights violation against my people from the martial rule in 1972 to the present, but it has gone worse under the Duterte administration,” Ina Dolores said.
Ina Dolores is a martial law survivor.
Ina Dolores said that her organization is among those labeled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as communist fronts. She said that members of her organizations have been surveiled, harassed, threatened and even killed.
“Why do we meet? What do we talk about during our meetings? We meeet to talk about how to improve our produce for food security in our villages. What is wrong with that?” Ina Dolores asked.
Ina Dolores said that at the moment, Ifugao villages are threatened by hydro projects, the Alimit hydro project of Aboitiz power and the revived Quad River project in Tinoc town. She said Ifugao folks were forced and deceived to sign the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) for the Alimit project.
She said that despite earlier rejection of Tinoc folk, proponents of the Quad River project has revived their application and government is entertaining it.
“These hydro projects threaten our gardens, farms and source of water but government does not listen to our opposition,” Ina Dolores said.
Ina Maria Galong, of the Save Apayao People’s Organization (SAPO) said that she is embarassed for being accused of supporting the NPA because she never had anything to give them.
“We are poor and we could hardly make ends meet so we do not have anything to give the NPA,” Ina Maria said.
Ina Maria further said that it is unacceptable that non government organizations like the Cordis RDS who help them uplift their livelihood sources are being labeled as communist fronts.
“We attend the meetings NGOs conduct because they help us improve our harvest and put up additonal livelihood sources but the NGOs including all those attending these meetings are being accused of being NPAs and are being harassed and threatened by the police and soldiers,” Ina Maria said.
Ina Maria believes that the peace negotiations between the government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) could resolve poverty and put an end to vilification and threats to NGOs and the people they serve.
It can be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte cancelled the peace talks in November, declared the CPP-NPA as terrorist groups after and threatened to arrest members of people’s organizations perceived to be communist fronts.
The GRP and the NDFP were talking about the second susbstantive agenda, the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), which both panels said was the meat of the peace talks because it aims to resolve the root causes of the civil war. # nordis.net