By PAOLA ESPIRITU
SAN FERNANDO CITY — An environmental and human rights activist from Ilocos petitioned the court to delist his name from the justice department’s “terrorist list.”
Environmental advocate and writer Sherwin De Vera filed a motion to exclude his name from the Department of Justice’s proscription petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army as terrorist organizations. With his lawyer, De Vera appeared before Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 19 on October 26.
“The inclusion of respondent De Vera as a member of CCP-NPA is unjust, unfair and smack of political persecution. The petition is based on hearsay, biased assumptions and self-serving allegations. It should be dismissed for lack of merit,” reads the motion and prayed that his name be “excluded and stricken of from the list.”
The judge said the motion is up for resolution since the DOJ has already given its comment. She also told De Vera and his counsel of the department’s prior manifestation to amend the proscription and her order for the office to hold the publication of the petition.
In support of De Vera’s motion, Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, leaders of Ilocos Network for the Environment (Defend Ilocos) and the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance picketed the DOJ while the court was in session.
They criticized the office for maliciously including De Vera and other activists in the “fraudulent and dubious terrorist list.”
A farmer-leader from Ilocos Sur, Nick Lacaden, shared that De Vera and Defend Ilocos led the campaign against destructive mining in Ilocos.
“Ni Sherwin ken ti grupona ket nagtrabaho para iti pannakasalaknib ken aywan ti Karayan Buaya ken ti kampanyami laban iti dam a manglayos ti ili ken taltalon,” said Lacaden, a leader of Timpuyog ti Umili ti Karayan Buaya (People’s Unity in the Buaya River).
(Sherwin and his group worked for the conservation and rehabilitation of Buaya River and our campaign against the dam that will flood communities and farmlands.)
Defend Ilocos under De Vera’s helm as regional coordinator and religious groups successfully campaigned for the stoppage of blacksand mining in Ilocos. His group also led the campaign against Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company’s pollution of the Abra river, Cordillera Exploration Company mining application and destructive mining in upland Ilocos Sur.
He is also active in the campaign against large and destructive dams and fossil fuels in the Ilocos region.
In December, state forces arrested him for fabricated rebellion charge. He experienced harassment and intimidation from both military and police before his arrest. Smear campaign, threats and intrigues against him has intensified after his inclusion in the DOJ’s terrorist proscription.
“The DOJ must immediately withdraw its terror list as it endangers the lives of innocent people like De Vera,” said Leon Dulce, national coordinator of Kalikasan-PNE.
He underscored that tagging activists as rebels, communists and terrorist led to attacks and killings, citing the recent incident in Sagay City. Unidentified assailants massacred nine farmers in the city after the military and police tagged their organization, the National Federation of Sugar Workers, as an NPA front.
In a separate statement, Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Vermilion Tagalog, chair of Defend Ilocos expressed his concern and condemnation of the “relentless attacks against De Vera’s democratic rights.”
“The environmental movement, the church and the people of Ilocos are appalled that individuals offering their time and knowledge in service of the people and nature are being persecuted and tagged as terrorist,” he said.
The bishop assured that despite the challenges, Defend Ilocos and the people will continue to resist environmental plunder and expose the corruption and human rights violations that comes with it.
De Vera, a researcher by profession, also writes for the Northern Dispatch Weekly and is one of the paper’s Ilocano editor.
Last July, the court cleared UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, lawyer Jose Molintas, NDFP Consultant Rafael Baylosis and former Bayan Muna representative Satur Ocampo from the DOJ’s terror list. The government named more than 600 persons in the petition that includes activists, the dead and missing persons, members of paramilitary groups, NDFP consultants and hundreds of aliases. # nordis.net