VIGAN CITY — The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Ilocos expressed alarm over the inclusion of the names of its leaders in a list of persons identified during a meeting of the Ilocos Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) as “Threats in Region 1.”

The group said in a statement that despite the military’s constant denial that they are under surveillance, they got hold of a photo of the list that the authorities discussed in the RPOC.

“Disturbingly, the list of threats is [contains the name of] known mass leaders, human rights workers and community volunteers in Region 1,” said the statement.

In the list, are Stop Exploitation Chairperson Antonino Pugyao and its Secretary-general Zaldy Alfiler, Mary Anne Gabayan Secretary of the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance, Ilocos Center for Research Empowerment and Development Officer-in-Charge Florence Kang, and Jennifer Roxas, a former student activist. The military also named Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (Makabayan) personalities Lenville Salvador, the regional coordinator for Ilocos, and Francisco Dangla and Minerva Panopio of Pangasinan.

Also in the list is Northern Dispatch Ilocos correspondent Paola Espiritu. Besides writing for the outfit, she is also a secretariat member of the Ilocos Network for the Environment.

Bayan Ilocos said the threats, red-tagging and intimidation, “intensified after Duterte’s Executive Order 70.” The group noted that after the creation of the Regional Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the situation worsened.

According to Pugyao, officials from the 81st Infantry Battalion denied the existence of the list when they confronted them during a dialogue last year.

“They implied we are only creating our own ghosts when, in fact, we have a proof that we are considered threats by the State,” he said.

The Provincial Government of Ilocos Sur facilitated a talk between people’s organizations and the military on August 4, 2019. During the dialogue, Stop Exploitation and members of the clergy raised the military’s insistence on joining their activities and red-tagging of their members.

Earlier, the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance warned of more rights violations in the region after leaders of progressive groups received unwanted visitations in the homes by the military.

Bayan Ilocos noted the list proved that the Duterte government prefers to vilify and threaten its critics rather than finding solutions to the concerns they are raising.

“We will hold this regime accountable to any untoward incident that may happen within our ranks, our colleagues and families,” Bayan Ilocos said. # nordis.net

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