By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
BAGUIO CITY — With the military harassment and intimidations against community health workers in the region, Katribu said Indigenous Peoples (IP) who are usually neglected of government social services are gravely affected.
Beverly Longid, Katribu president said that harassment of development workers happen not only in the Cordillera. “It happens all over the country,” she said. She explained that IPs are not only marginalized but they are also one of the most vulnerable sectors of society.
She pointed out that the health program is the least priority of the government compared to the military. “Mas malaki nga ang budget ng bala kaysa vaccine at mas malaki rin ang budget ng bomba kaysa feeding program for the children,” (Budget for military bullets and bombs is greater than budget for vaccines or feeding program for the children) she stressed.
With this, institutions like the Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE) and Center for Development Projects in the Cordillera (CDPC) are extending their help especially to the IPs that are most deprived of government social services.
In this case she said, IPs are experiencing double violation of their rights. She pointed out that aside from the government neglect of social services, they are also denied of health and other development services, that, today are being offered by non government institutions who are committed to uplifting their lives because the military is harrassing development workers.
These harassments she said is part of the government’s counterinsurgency program. “Activists even development workers are being labelled as New Peoples Army (NPA) or NPA sympathizers,” she explained. She lamented that this “red tagging” is becoming so natural which according to her should be denounced.
She cited an incident recently in the Sierra Madre mountains of Cagayan Valley where seven Agtas were shot by the elements of the military. Three of them were severely wounded and one died. This she said happened because of the simple suspicion of the military that they are NPAs. She said that these Agtas would really frequent the Sierra Madre mountains because they are engaged in swidden farming, hunting and gathering as a source of livelihood.
Due to the incident, Longid said the Agtas were forced to relocate to another area.
The Oplan Bayanihan
PNoy’s counterinsurgency plan is called the Oplan Bayanihan. Longid said the plan is positively written. “Accordingly, isasantabi na nila ang military combat operation as their primary form of counterinsurgency,” she said. Government according to her would term it as “winning the peace”. She added that this time, the military will engaged themselves more into social services.
However, she said the oplan is very deceptive. “Deceptive in the sense that the military is doing what the government should be doing to easily implement militarization,” she stressed. She added that despite this pronouncement of the administration, the orientation of the military in the community remains. She explained that red tagging, harassments and intimidations of activists and development workers are still there.
“In fact, mas marami pa ngayon ang nado-document na human rights violations,” she iterated.
She then advised the administration that if they really want to win the peace, they should look into the root causes of insurgency like violations to human rights and socio and economic rights.
Moreover, she said they will be suggesting to the peace panel to study the Oplan Bayanihan. “Study in a sense that the panel would look into its implementation. Iba kasi iyong nasa papel kaysa doon sa talagang nangyayari on the ground,” she said.
Meanwhile, documented harassments and intimidations of the community health workers of CHESTCORE had been submitted to the Joint Monitoring Committee – Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) for them to look into. # nordis.net