By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
LAGAWE, Ifugao — Human rights defenders under the banner of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) successfully staged their third regional congress on July 28 to 29, here just as the group weathered the murderous and violent Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) of the past regime and braved the passing typhoon Juaning.In the said congress the membership of CHRA assessed their programs, celebrated their victories, recognized their shortcomings and renewed their strength to continue the struggle for peace based on justice with the recognition that the sorry state of human rights persists under the more deceptive counter-insurgency program of the new administration of President Benigno Aquino III, Oplan Bayanihan.
CHRA Secretary General Jude Baggo stressed that human rights workers with the organized sections in the region have undoubtedly foiled the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime’s counter-insurgency program, OBL I and II.
He added that human rights organizations including CHRA courageously confronted the violent and murderous OBL, and remained resilient amid extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAP) and the continuing surveillance and harassment against human rights defenders and activists.
“Despite this victory, it is true that some of us chose to side step, go back to their home towns and leave the country. Our principles and commitment were shaken. We feared for our lives and lost our spirit of volunteerism. But today, in this congress, as we can see, we have regained our strength and resolve to continue the fight. We did not stop,” Baggo stressed in Iloko.
He further said that Cordillera human rights workers did not stop from building their capacity to respond to human rights violations through education and trainings for documentation. “We continued to document, expose and oppose rights violations and militarization.
We militantly freed our colleagues who were illegally arrested and falsely charged by state security forces,” he added.
Baggo pointed out that with rights violations continuing under PNoy’s Oplan Bayanihan, it is but right for Cordillera human rights workers to continue to strengthen their ranks through building stronger grassroots human rights formations to face and beat the new counter-insurgency program.
In his keynote address, Roneo Jigs Clamor, Karapatan secretary general highlighted that CHRA carried on the legacy of the Cordillera peoples historical resistance to state plunder and repression.
“Indeed, your history has shown the Filipino people and the world that political repression, state terrorism and exploitation will not be countenanced by the peoples of the Cordilleras,” Clamor said.
He reiterated that the proud legacy of Cordillera martyrs has carried forth CHRA to its third assembly with renewed strength and resolve to defend the people’s rights in the face of a more deceptive state counter-insurgency policy that mouths respect for human rights but continues to violate the peoples rights.
“The CHRA, as with all other organizations of human rights defenders, has had its share of sacrifices in serving our people, especially in the defense of our peoples’ rights. Karapatan is all the more proud to stand with you in the promotion, protection and defense of these rights,” Clamor reiterated.
Ifugao Congress Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr., in his message of solidarity, commended CHRA on its third regional congress as he assured his commitment and support to the struggle for the respect and recognition of human rights.
Baguilat also pointed out that CHRA’s program is timely and worthy of support for the challenges facing human rights advocates today are more severe and more complex.
He also highlighted that the tedious task of educating and defending human rights needs more workers and advocates.
“…How can we win more soldiers to the side of human rights advocacy? I cannot provide you with answers to that question. But as your representative in Congress, it is my duty to support your campaign with an environment conducive to gaining more advocates,” Baguilat said. # nordis.net