Philippines: Development workers, activists condemn fascism of 7th ID in Ilocos and Cordillera

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    NEWS RELEASE
    November 10, 2017

    ILOCOS SUR – Members of different peoples organizations from the Cordillera and Ilocos regions held a protest action at the public market of Sta. Cruz town in Ilocos Sur to condemn the political persecution perpetrated by the members of the 7th Infantry Division of the AFP against development workers, activists and ordinary farmers in the said regions. In particular, they cited the case of five women development workers who are being accused for trumped-up cases filed by the 81st IBPA and the 71st DRC, and the grave threats and harassment committed by the 24th IBPA Wildcats against members of KASTAN-CPA (CPA Abra chapter).

    According to a joint statement of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA-Karapatan), “state fascism has heightened this year, not just with harsh words but also with harsh attacks on people’s rights through the implementation of Oplan Kapayapaan. The peoples taxes are being used to subdue legitimate people’s dissent and protect the interests of the ruling classes rather than to deliver the much-needed services to the people such as land, livelihood, health and education.”

    “The areas where the 7th ID operates are experiencing intensified militarization. Community leaders, even elected LGU officials, are being threatened, harassed and intimidated, if not coopted by the army forces. Illegal arrests have been committed against peasant leaders in Ilocos, including a minor in Abra, since February. Public disinformation campaigns are being conducted in schools and communities through forum lectures and social media posts.”

    The so-called “Palparan Batallion” or the 24th IBPA Wildcats has consistently maligned members of KASTAN-CPA and members of the clergy, including Bishop Sergio Utleg as “enemies of the state” connected with the New Peoples Army since August. KASTAN Secretariat Shirley Ann Angiwot and Theresa Forag were subjected to grave threats and harassments by accusing them of kidnapping minors. Mudiit People’s Organization leaders were also subjected to illegal searches of their homes. The 24th IBPA is responsible for the indiscriminate airstrikes in Malibcong, Abra last March after Pres. Duterte ordered his men to “flatten the hills”.

    “The face of tyranny in the country is the current regime of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte as supported by the government of the United States of America. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other state security forces comprise the iron fist of the tyrannical rule,” the statement said.

    Recently, Malacañang has issued statements on the establishment of a “revolutionary government” which, according to CPA and CHRA, is in the same tone as a nationwide martial law. The resurrection of the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) through the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA) uses the Philippine justice system against legitimate political dissent through the filing of trumped-up charges to threaten, harass, intimidate and “neutralize” persons whom they deem as “enemies of the state” including political activists and government critics.

    Five women human rights defenders in the Cordillera are currently facing trumped-up charges filed by the 81st IBPA and the 71st DRC namely Sarah Abellon-Alikes (pioneer of CPA), Rachel Mariano (Community Health, Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region), Sherry Mae Soledad (Katinnulong dagiti Umili ti Amianan-Regional Development Center), Joanne Villanueva (Cordillera Women’s Education, Action Research Center) and Asia Isabella Gepte (convenor of Binnadang and the Joint Monitoring Committee on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law). All of them are working to support marginalized communities, two have young children, and one recently gave birth to her first child.

    The 81st IBPA is responsible for 225 cases of human rights violations which had victimized 840 individuals and 9000 families in the Ilocos Region. Most of the victims are leaders, members and allies of peoples organizations such as the Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation), Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA), Anakbayan and Ilocos Network for the Environment (DEFEND Ilocos).

    These same army units are responsible for the recent harassment on leaders and members of the Save Quirino Movement (SQM), a peoples organization in Quirino, Ilocos Sur which actively campaigns against destructive mining operations of Lepanto and entry of new mining explorations. CPA Chairperson Windel Bolinget, Vice-Chairperson Xavier Akien, and CDPC staff members were also illegally detained at San Emilio after attending an SQM meeting in Quirino last October 27.

    “By continuously attacking development workers, the government, through the 7th ID, has been depriving poor farmers and indigenous peoples in neglected communities of the basic social services that peoples organization have beenable to provide. The government should heed the lessons of the past – that oppression only breeds resistance. Our people has a proud history of toppling tyrants and we can do it again,” said CPA Chairperson Windel Bolinget. #

    Source: Women Resist Tyranny

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