BAGUIO CITY — To commemorate International Human Rights Day, the Promotion for Church People’s Response (PCPR) in Pangasinan held a mass and forum on December 10 at the Aglipay Central Theological Seminary (ACTS) in Urdaneta City.

Reverend Father Rhoel Baldonado, ACTS registrar and Philosophy professor of the school, delivered the Biblico-Theological Reflection.

His sermon revolved on the moral and spiritual task of every individual to “become stewards of creation.” He stressed that individuals “being created in the image of God are co-creators and should protect and develop all things according to God’s purpose.”

According to him, as a rational being, a person can think and judge whether the current situation is “according to the purpose of God.”

“If not, then, it is [the person’s] responsibility to inform and expose like the Prophets of the Old Testament, and encourage the people to change their ways and change the system that perpetuates the situation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Reverend Father Noel Dacuycuy said the Bible mandates everyone to “defend the life, livelihood, and rights of individuals.” This duty is the essence of “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” according to the professor of Systematic Theology at ACTS and a member of the Ilocos Regional Ecumenical Council.

“That is why when we act to defend human rights when we expose corruption and abuses, it is not about ideology or to destabilize the government. It is our duty to God, our country and the people,” he added.

He said the challenge under the current regime is for the people “to articulate the realities on the ground, the sufferings of the poor arising from anti-people policies and programs.”

“The purpose of state-sponsored threats and violence is to keep the people silent and instill blind obedience. The more we show that we are afraid, the more the state will take away our rights, our lives, and our human dignity,” he underscored.

Dacuycuy, who was a victim of trumped-up charges under the Estrada government, said: “Christians should not cower before state violence, like Jesus when the Jews persecuted him.”

He was among the 14 church workers and peasant leaders accused of masterminding the death of Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army chief Conrado Balweg. The New People’s Army (NPA) owned the killing citing Balweg’s crime against the people and revolutionary movement.

After the mass, the forum on the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) and the human rights situation in the province followed.

Kilusan ng Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Chairperson Danilo Ramos discussed the impact of RTL to the country’s agriculture sector. He said the law is part of Philippine’s commitment under the World Trade Organization-Agreement on Agriculture (WTO-AoA).

According to him, agriculture trade liberalization, as mandated under the WTO-AoA, has destroyed domestic agriculture and displaced the livelihood of many farmers. With the RTL in place, he said that farmers are now more vulnerable to debt and bankruptcy, and land grabbing and conversion.

Pangasinan is among those hardest hit by the steep drop of palay (unmilled rice) prices due to the implementation of the RTL. According to reports, the buying price of palay dipped at P10.00 per kilo last August from P19.00 in the same period the previous year. The province produces 61 percent of the total harvest in Region 1. It contributes 6 percent to the country’s rice production, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. Based on its annual production, the P9.00 drop in palay prices in August translates to P9.9 billion lost to farmers and the local economy.

Ramos also assailed the increasing attack against peasant communities, especially in areas where land disputes and struggles are present.

Based on the record of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Pangasinan, there are six victims of extra-judicial killings and four cases of illegal arrest and detention in the province since 2016. This figure includes the four treasure hunters killed by state forces in San Narcisco town, which they presented as NPA members. The two other EJK victims are Lito Sagurit of Anakpawis San Carlos City and Bobby Mejia of Ulopan Ed Camp Gregg Military Reservation in Bayambang.

According to the group, except for the four treasure hunters, all other cases of human rights violations are related to the “Bungkalan Campaign” and fight against land-use conversion in the municipality of Bayambang. The land dispute in the area involves the CAT Realty owned by the Cojuangcos. # nordis.net

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