By KIMBERLIE NGABIT QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Groups tagged as “Communist Terrorist Group Front Organizations” by the Department of National Defense reiterated they are legitimate organizations serving the people and condemned the government agency for accusing them.
During a hearing on AFP modernization on November 5, AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence Major General Reuben Basiao named 18 groups as communist front organizations. Among the organizations named were Oxfam Philippines, National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), and Gabriela Women’s Partylist (GWP), who won a seat in the 18th congress.
Several of the groups named are from the Cordillera, Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions in North Luzon. These include the Timpuyog ti Mannalon ti Kalinga (TMK), Ilocos Center for Research Empowerment and Development (ICRED), Cordillera Indigenous Law Center (DINTEG), Cagayan Valley Disaster and Response Center (CVDRC), Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), Katinnulong Dagiti Umili ti Amianan, Incorporated (KADUAMI).
In a statement, Oxfam denied the accusation. The group pointed out that the organization has been in the country for more than 30 years working with government, private sector, the academe, women’s organizations, community groups, donor community, and other international agencies.
Oxfam said they are development and humanitarian organization working to reduce poverty and to provide life-saving assistance to communities affected by disasters and not a front of communist groups or funder of communist groups.
“In a country where poverty remains, and poor communities are continually struck by disasters, we strongly believe that organizations like ours should be encouraged, rather than hindered, from undertaking our program,” the Oxfam statement read.
The NCCP, the largest aggrupation of Protestant and non-Roman Catholic denominations in the country condemned their inclusion in the DND list of communist front organizations. The church, the group, said red tagging by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, was malicious and careless.
“We consider this move of the AFP as an attack on our Christian faith and tradition. We will remain resolute in our prophetic witness and service to the people even while shrinking democratic space and the rising impunity,” the NCCP stated.
ICRED, a non-government organization involved in research and disaster response, stressed that development work is not a crime. They pointed out that AFP’s allegation is dangerous and demanded that the military should stop arbitrarily tagging organizations.
The group said that development workers had suffered harassment and rights violations in the hands of government soldiers when providing services to various communities.
The group cited the case of Rachel Mariano, a health worker falsely charged by the 81st IB of the Philippine Army of participating in an ambush by the New People’s Army. After languishing in jail for one year, the court acquitted her on September 4.
“We, from ICRED, as part of the network of development workers and NGOs doing DRRM, vehemently condemn such actions as it puts humanitarian and development workers in grave danger of being harassed by state agents while providing services to different communities with the least access to social services in the region,” ICRED stated.
The institution vowed to continue its humanitarian and development work as it complements the government’s effort to a shared responsibility to deliver social services and development work to communities amidst repression.
Activism not a crime
Windel Bolinget, the CPA chairperson, said that his organization and the Timpuyon ti Mannalon ti Kalinga (Farmer’s Unity in Kalinga or TMK) are legitimate organizations. According to him, they have been serving and defending the rights of indigenous peoples and farmers since their establishment.
“Activism is not terrorism. It is not a crime. It is a necessity under conditions of injustice, especially under the Duterte regime,” he said.
Bolinget said that the CPA’s record of accomplishment of advancing indigenous people’s rights and democratic rights of all people is nationally and internationally 1recognized. Established in 1984, one of the organization’s legacy is the inclusion of IP rights in the present Constitution.
The CPA chair added that the AFP’s red-tagging is cowardice and upfront to human rights and international humanitarian law. He stressed that the AFP should be held accountable for attacking civilians and legitimate people’s organizations. # nordis.net