Ilocos activists picket regional government offices

By SHERWIN DE VERA
with reports from PAOLA ESPIRITU & MADONNA PETA

BAGUIO CITY — Progressive groups trooped to several regional government offices in San Fernando City, La Union on December 10, the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to demand the stop of attacks against people’s rights, and government assistance and social services.

The protesters picketed and dialogued with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA) and Solidaity of Peasants Against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation) led the demonstration with the regional chapters of Anakbayan and Makabayan bloc partylists, and members of Timek ken Namnama ti Mangngalap ti La Union (Timak La Union), Ilocos Regional Ecumenical Council, Martial Law Victims Association of Ilocos Norte and Timpuyog ti Mannalon ti Karayan Buaya (TUKB).

Probe rights violations

IHRA secretary general Mary Ann Gabayan urged the officials of CHR to look into the red-tagging, vilification, threats and filling of trumped up charges against leaders and members of progressive organizations during the dialogue at the agency’s office.

She claimed that militarization, especially in the 2nd district of Ilocos Sur, have resulted to fear and even economic displacement in communities.

“Civilians, farmers and even minors, are forced to ‘surrender’, presented as NPA members or supporters by the 81st Infantry Battalion for their money making schemes and accomplishment report,” she explained.

Gabayan narrated that in September, the army unit coerced 36 individuals from Brgy. Legazpi, Galimuyod Brgy. Bugnay, Candon City to “surrender” and presented them as members of the communist-rebels who yielded to the military.

TUKB chairman and Salcedo town in Ilocos Sur resident Nick Lacaden expressed alarm over the complacency of the provincial leadership with the encampments of government troops in communities.

“More worrisome is the endorsement from the governor to install detachments and deployment forces in residential areas, contrary to established norms and standards under International Humanitarian Law,” he said.

Governor Ryan Singson issued Executive Order 05-2018 early this year authorizing the 81st IB to install a detachment in Sitio Arnap, Brgy. Balidbid in the municipality.

On October 10, he again issued EO No. 25-2018 endorsing the deployment of Community Support Program forces to San Antonio, San Jose and Camanggaan in Sta. Cruz, Conconig East, Suagayan and Buliclic in Sta. Lucia, San Tiburcio and Buluarte in Salcedo, and Tablac in Candon City.

They stopped by Camp Brig. Gen. Oscar M. Florendo, the regional headquarters of the Philippine National Police, to condemn the deadly war on drugs and the police harassment of people’s organization leaders. Speakers also assailed the instruction of the PNP Intelligence Department to monitor and update the “target profile” of personalities of the people’s movement in Ilocos and the Cordillera.

Sufficient assistance and services

At the BFAR and DSWD offices, leaders from Stop Exploitation, TUKB and Timek La Union had a dialogue with officials while their members held program outside the building.
They urged the agencies to extend more aid to communities devastated by Habagat rains, and Typhoons Ompong and Rosita.

Jorge Cacayuran, chairperson of Timek La Union said the agency failed to provide the appropriate assistance they asked in past dialogues and raised that many fisherfolk were not able to go fishing for almost two months. He also complained to the fishery about ordinances that are making the life of small fisherfolks difficult.

BFAR officers Atty. Rey Arthur Sontillano and Girlie dela Peña, the office have no funds to provide immediate assistance to all fisherfolks affected by the recent calamities. They also requested TIMEK to submit copies of the ordinances and their contentions. BFAR will call a dialogue between the group and concerned LGUs.

While peasant and fisherfolk leaders hold a dialogue with BFAR staffs, youth organizations led by Anakbayan and Kabataan Partylist conducted a program at the Commission on Higher Education, besides BFAR.

According to Renz Kang of Kabataan Partylist, CHED should ensure the implementation of the free education law without any conditions. He also claimed that fees are still collected in some state colleges and institutions.

Representatives of the organizations met with DSWD Assistant Regional Director for Operations Marlene Febes.

The group said the aid for those affected by Habagat rains and Typhoons Ompong and Rosita were not enough.

In Santa Lucia, Ilocos Sur, affected residents who signed the petition asking for additional assistance were removed from the list of beneficiaries. They also experienced harassments and intimidation from LGU officials, military and police for after forwarding the document to DSWD.

Red-tagging on HR day

After the march-rally and agency trooping, the protesters proceeded to the CAP Building located in the central business district of the city.

Inside, the organizers were informed by the manager that a personnel of PNP San Fernando, who identified himself as head of the city’s police force, talked to them to deny the participants entry to the building.The police officer also warned the management for being the frequent activity venue of progressive groups. Also, two men who refused to identify themselves gave a leaflet red-tagging progressive organizations.

Despite the incident, the scheduled Makabayan Ilocos Convention was held successfully according to the group’s regional coordinator, Lenville Salvador.

Launching of the film “Silnag” and a cultural night followed the convention.# nordis.net

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