The intensifying attacks on peoples’ organizations has spared no one. Direct assault on people who assert their rights and claim their due is escalating especially after the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao and its subsequent extension. The president does not like opposition to his programs like his drug war and has brazenly ordered shoot to kill on suspected terrorists and drug addicts.
President Duterte has threatened time and again the declaration of Martial Law in the entire country. His lapdogs in the police and military have ferociously continued the Red baiting and vilification of past administrations. Peoples’ organizations are subjected to harassment and vilification and their livelihood projects questioned if not destroyed. Even Church personalities who have supported peoples’ causes and issues are not exempted from the threats.
The partners of KADUAMI are regional and provincial alliances of Peoples Organizations that are asserting their rights to land, livelihood, culture and basic services. They have honed their capacities to attain concrete gains and bring demands to proper fora legally and through democratic ways. These gains directly confront the powers that be and they get labeled as fronts of the revolutionary movements that is why they are harassed and subjected to physical threat and violence.
KADUAMI has been effective in its assistance to increase the capacities of the people’s organizations. KADUAMI’s Board of Directors and staff are closely linked with the claim holders in the three regions of Northern Luzon in their activities in its 35 years of service to the marginalized sectors.
The Board and Staff were also subjected to the realities faced by the grassroots where opposition to authoritarianism and tyranny is called anti-government activity. The arrest of Sherwin De Vera, our Research Assistant is the latest example of the absurd realities.
Apart from Sherwin, Ms. Sarah Abellon-Alikes, BOD-at-Large together with Ms. Sherry Mae Soledad, our TOP coordinator have been implicated in fabricated cases of frustrated murder in Sigay and Salcedo, Ilocos Sur since August 2017. It would be recalled that Abellon-Alikes was also implicated in a fabricated case of arson last February.
The policies of the Duterte regime of labeling peoples organizations as legal fronts or recruiters of the revolutionaries have placed KADUAMI’s partners in grave danger. Last year in Cadsalan, San Mariano, Isabela, from the farmer community for seed banking and dispersal project, the 86th IB murdered the Mendoza brothers who were hunting wild animals, tagging them as NPA members.
In Quirino, Ilocos Sur, the 81st IB is red tagging the Save Quirino Movement, an environmental group protecting their waters and ricefields from large scale mining pollution and encroachment. Many communities all over Northern Luzon have reported that soldiers encamp in their villages and use public school buildings, barangay halls and other public areas to stifle opposition or people’s assemblies.
In areas where there are military detachments, the people are scrutinized on a daily basis, and many times they are prevented from going to their fields and forests causing lesser harvests and food, and performing community rituals. Local civilian authorities are either complicit or keep silent on such violations and brazenness.
Empowered farmers’ organizations with support from local churches and some political leaders are reaping gains step by step. Danggayan, the farmers federation in Cagayan Valley won higher farm gate prices for their produce, reduced usurious rates for loans, decreased irrigation fees and accessed disaster related services. Many of their local chapters have gained victories in their quest for social services.
STOP Exploitation, the farmers’ regional group in Ilocos region has continued to gain recognition from their engagement with local government and government agencies for increased buying prices for tobacco and social services like irrigation.
APIT TAKO, the indigenous peoples of the Cordilleras farmers’ organization has espoused farmers rights, gained in sharing traditional knowledge on agriculture and increased production with little government backing. They have consistently prevented land grabbing of their ancestral lands from large mining and energy companies.
These victories and gains do not sit well with the controlling landlords, tobacco cartel, loan sharks, big companies and state agents especially the military and police. The Duterte war on drugs has given the armed state machinery an authority to kill all suspects without due process. There is little respect for life or for the judicial processes however slow.
The victories and gains of the people are placed under suspicion and the groups are subjected to red tagging, vilification and worse to arrest and murder of leaders and members. The last quarter of 2017 was a busy time for human rights defenders due to the fierce attacks on the peoples organizations. No one has been exempt, everyone is suspect.
The attempts of a rubber stamp Congress on changing the constitution that will extend their terms among other onerous provisions, of zero budgets to opposition solons and local officials and impeachment proceedings on independent justices bodes ill for the assertion of human rights and respect for the rule of law and human dignity. The desire to “Build Build Build” runs counter to the desire of the people for consultation and dialogue, engagement and unity building. We face grave threats and a bleak future in these pronouncements and actions. However, we must stand our ground and persevere. We must struggle for justice and peace so we will not be enslaved and shackled, tormented and imprisoned, hungry and endangered.
Respect and Protect Human Rights! Defend Human Rights Defenders!
Scrap the fabricated and trumped up charges against activists and peoples’ organization members!
End targetting, harassment, and intimidation of development workers, human rights defenders, and members and leaders of progressive organizations! # nordis.net