By KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Tongtongan ti Umili welcomed the statement of Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong that activists are “safe and secure” in the city.
The group, which is the city chapter of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, also recommended concrete steps that the mayor can immediately implement to ensure safe space for democratic dissent.
“While it’s a breath of fresh air from the constant attacks of the Duterte administration, Magalong’s statement should be followed by detailed plans to prevent further human rights violations in the city specifically towards human rights defenders and activists,” said Tongtongan chairperson Geraldine Cacho.
Tongtongan is the city chapter of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).
According to her, the mayor could start with an executive order prohibiting and penalizing any forms of political vilification, especially from state forces and institutions. She also suggested to the chief executive to mark the proposed Human Rights Defenders’ Ordinance as urgent.
The Tongtongan chair pointed out that “dissemination of malicious information” associating progressive groups with terrorist groups and the armed communists’ revolution endanger them. This action, she added, “criminalizes and invalidates” their calls and advocacies.
“These alleged claims often result in further harassment, illegal surveillance, trumped-up charges, enforced disappearances and even extrajudicial killings as experienced by some of our colleagues,” Cacho said.
“It is alarming that while the mayor is making these pronouncements, the LTF-ECLAC is set to continue its program,” she added.
Tongtongan is wary about the series of raids and arrests of activists that happened in Negros Occidental, and Manila will also occur in Baguio. They fear that the creation of the Local Task Force End Local Communist Armed Conflict (LTF-ELCAC) in the city will pave the way to similar incidents.
The police and military raided the offices of progressive groups and residences of its leaders last month. These separate operations resulted in the arrest and filing of trumped-up charges against 11 persons in Negros and five in Manila.
“It is only fitting that these should be accomplished in time for the commemoration of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) this 10th of December. Such advancement will signify the city’s utmost commitment to the 71-year old declaration.” Cacho said.
Cause for alarm
During the joint Regional Development Council-Regional Peace and Order Council meeting in November 29, the military also accused the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM) as influenced by communist rebels. IPM is an affiliate organization of the CPA.
The CPA, together with its member organizations and allies, expressed serious fear concern about their security with the government’s consistent fabrication of false information linking them to the armed communist movement. The group also underscored the danger of equating membership with the Communist Party of the Philippine (CPP) to be “criminals and terrorists.” They reminded the authorities that the government has long repealed the Anti-Subversion Law.
Last July, a speaker from the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) made a presentation identifying CPA and other sectoral groups as part of the organizations of the communist rebels. This happened during the meeting with government agencies in July this by members of the NTF-ELCAC in the city.
In the NICA material, the NTF-ELCAC also identified the appointment of UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz as a “special project of the [Communist Party of the Philippines] in Northern Luzon.”
NICA presented the same material to public relations officers of different government offices in the city in June in a forum organized by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Cordillera. This incident drew criticism from several institutions and local media practitioners.
Earlier, in February 2018, the Department of Justice identified Tauli-Corpuz, along with Gwangju Peace Awardee Joanna Cariño, UN Champion of the Earth Awardee Joan Carling, Jeannette Ribaya-Cawiding, Windel Bolinget and Beverly Longid as CPP-NPA leaders. The office included their name in the petition to proscribe the rebel groups as terrorist organizations. All six are residents of Baguio City and current and former leaders of the CPA.
Also, Baguio is among the “primary white areas” identified by the NTF-ELCAC as priorities of the Northern Luzon Command to counter the alleged organizing and recruitment of the communist front organization.
In July, the NTF-ELCAC said it is considering the Cordillera Administrative Region as a model for the implementation of its “whole-of-nation” approach to combat the communist-led armed revolution. # nordis.net