By SHERWIN DE VERA
with reports from MADONNA PETA, NIÑO OCONER, JHAMES PAREDES & WALTER VILLEGAS
BAGUIO CITY — Different sectors in Northern Luzon expressed their firm stand for the promotion and respect of human rights amidst what they call “burgeoning open fascist rule” of President Duterte.
Human rights groups and people’s organizations led different and separate protest actions in the regional urban centers of Cagayan, Ilocos and Cordillera on December 10, International Human Rights Day and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Across the Northern provinces, protesters shouted and carried streamers bearing the call: “Democracy not dictatorship!” and “Resist tyranny!”
Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA) and the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation) led the trooping of regional government offices in San Fernando City, La Union.
They picketed and held dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights, Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.
The group is calling on CHR to investigate the widespread rights violations in the region. They also urged BFAR and DSWD to extend more aid to communities devastated by Habagat rains, and Typhoons Ompong and Rosita.
On their way to DWSD and BFAR, the protesters stopped by Camp Brig. Gen. Oscar M. Florendo, the regional headquarters of the Philippine National Police, and held a short program to condemn continuing attacks against the people’s organizations.
Hustisya Cagayan Valley opened the commemoration of the IHRD with a forum on the National Human Rights Situation and updates on the Martial Law Reparation Law.
The forum, held at St. Peter’s Metropolitan Cathedral Gymnasium, was attended by Martial Law victims, their families and human rights advocates.
A Human Rights Caravan followed the forum, passing the main streets of Tugegarao City to protest the intensified attacks against human rights and peasant advocates.
The group also underscored policies of the administration that are primarily victimizing the poor like the “war on drugs” and TRAIN Law.
Down South, in the town of Didipio in Nueva Vizcaya, Samahang Pangkarapatan ng Katutubong Manggagawa at Magsasaka Inc. (SPKMMI) led the protest against mining giant OceanaGold Philippines, Inc.
Members of SPKMMI picketed the gates of the company to express opposition against its operation and planned expansion. They also scored the destruction brought by the company’s extraction activities to Nueva Vizcaya’s forest and rivers.
A cultural jam capped the day-long activities organized by the Cordillera Movement Against Tyranny. Baguio artists and musicians joined the Saniweng ti Maysa a Tignay, a musical gathering for peace and human rights.
Before the March protest, former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno spoke before members of CMAT and the Baguio community at the Forum on People’s Issues under the Duterte Administration.
“The number of participants is testament that despite the intensified attacks, the people of Abra remain committed to peace and respect of human rights,” said Abra Human Rights Alliance. # nordis.net