Ilocos group calls for troop pull out

By RODA TAJON
www.nordis.net

CANDON CITY, Ilocos Sur — “Karapatan ng mamamayan, ipaglaban!”

More than 300 human rights advocates in Ilocos repeatedly chanted the above call as they marched to commemorate International Human Rights Day last December 11.

The activity was launched despite efforts from Philippine National Police (PNP) and the city government to frustrate them because of their “no permit, no rally policy”.

Mila Marcelo, public information officer of the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA), said that the state-sponsored terror in the countryside and the escalating human rights violations in the Ilocos region has instead served as a challenge to the people to assert their rights.

“The Aquino government and its military forces have systematically violated the rights of the people through its Oplan Bayanihan. Instead of being cowed, reaction only further pushed people to stand for their basic rights and thwart any form of repression.” Marcelo added.

The commemoration of the International Human Rights Day was highlighted by the Sine Karbengan and a parade with the call for justice for all victims of human rights violations and to stop the on-going military operations in the region.

Sine Karbengan

Sine Karbengan, a project supported by movies-that-matter and partnered with Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), featured short films and documentaries which presented human rights issues and concerns. Sine Karbengan means movies for rights advocacy.

Among the roster of films were Rimbaw, a locally-produced documentary depicting the struggles and resilience of the families of victims of human rights violations in Northern Luzon; Fausto of Arakan, a 5-minute documentary on the killing of indigenous people’s right advocate Fr. Fausto Tentorio; and KINSE, a series of human rights films produced by columnist and film-maker Patricia Evangelista and the ABS-CBN News Channel.

Other films include locally-produced documentaries: That the Mountains May Chant the Truth, Gami Dád Linumfig, and many others.

According to Roeanne Antonio of the ABS-CBN News Channel, KINSE is their network’s share and commitment to uphold human rights. “KINSE is an effort of indie-film directors to increase human rights awareness among the populace.” She said during the program.

As part of the commemoration of the human rights week, IHRA and CHRA toured in several schools in the provinces of La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte to show the movies under Sine Karbengan. More than one thousand students have participated in the said screenings. Human Rights Situation in the Ilocos Region were also discussed coinciding with the film festival.

A call for justice

Marcelo said that this year is a challenging year for human rights.

Marcelo said that there are five (5) political prisoners, who are all victims of illegal arrest and detention; human rights advocates were harassed, threatened and vilified; and the troops belonging to 3rd IBPA and 703rd Brigade have literally stormed Ilocos communities because of Oplan Bayanihan.

He added that justice remains elusive for the victims of extrajudicial killings in the past year. He recalled that last year, Elmer Valdez and Nicolas Ramos from Ilocos Sur were killed by elements of 50th IBPA and 503rd Brigade during their operations. Complaints were already filed at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) but nothing has yet happened.

Meanwhile, troopers belonging to 3rd Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Rogelio Mesias were deployed at the province of Ilocos Sur to conduct Bayanihan Operations. Their Peace and Development Teams have conducted psychological warfare in communities through its socio-civic programs while they, at the same time, conducted massive and relentless combat operations resulting to fear among the civilian populace.

Marcelo said Aquino’s counterinsurgency program is no-different from the previous Oplan Bantay Laya. “Intensified militarization, escalating human rights violations and political vilification highlight Aquino’s one and a half year in power, even surpassing the record of his predecessor’s first year.”

These, according to Marcelo, will be the onset of IHRA’s campaign to pull-out troops in the countryside. “We will continue to struggle for justice, we will continue to fight for our rights and we will continue to call for the immediate pull-out of 3rd IBPA and 703rd Brigade in our communities.” Marcelo ended. # nordis.net

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