Philippines: Human rights defenders condemn fascism of 7th Infantry Division in Ilocos and Cordillera


    November 10, 2017

    ILOCOS SUR – Members of people’s organizations from the Cordillera and Ilocos regions held a protest action today  at the public market of Sta. Cruz town in Ilocos Sur to condemn the political persecution perpetrated by the 7th Infantry Division of the AFP against activists and human rights defenders in the said regions. These include the trumped-up charges filed against five women human rights defenders by the 81st Infantry Battalion and the 71st DRC, and the grave threats and harassment committed by the 24th Infantry Battalion Wildcats against members of KASTAN-CPA Abra.

    “State fascism heightened this year, not just with harsh words but also with harsh attacks on people’s rights through the implementation of Oplan Kapayapaan. The people’s taxes are used to subdue legitimate people’s dissent and protect the interests of the ruling classes rather than  deliver the much-needed services to the people such as land, livelihood, health and education,” said Cordillera Peoples Alliance Chairperson Windel Bolinget.

    The five women human rights defenders in the Cordillera facing trumped-up charges  are Sarah Abellon-Alikes (KADUAMI-Regional Development Center and pioneer of CPA), Rachel Mariano (Community Health, Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region),  Sherry Mae Soledad (KADUAMI-RDC) , Joanne Villanueva (Cordillera Women’s Education, Action, Research Center) and Asia Isabella Gepte (convenor of Binnadang and a staff of the joint secretariat of the NDFP nominated section to 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 so-called “Palparan Battalion” or the 24th IBPA Wildcats  consistently maligned members of KASTAN and members of the clergy, including Bishop Sergio Utleg as “enemies of the state” and connected with the New Peoples Army. KASTAN Secretariat Shirley Ann Angiwot and Teresa Forag were subjected to grave threats and harassment 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 the AFP to “flatten the hills”.

    Reports from the Ilocos Human Rights Advocates  (IHRA) and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA)   state that militarisation is heightened in areas where the 7th ID operates. Community leaders including elected LGU officials are  threatened, harassed and intimidated, if not coopted by the army forces. Illegal arrests are committed against peasant leaders in Ilocos, including a minor in Abra. The 7th ID elements have also been conducting public disinformation campaigns in schools and communities through forums and social media posts.

    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 forthe recent harassment on leaders and members of the Save Quirino Movement (SQM), a people’s 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 Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC) staff members were also illegally detained at San Emilio after attending an SQM meeting in Quirino last October 27.

    Government’s  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.

    “The 7th ID’s attacks on the people, human rights defenders and development activists has deprived poor farmers and indigenous peoples in neglected communities of the basic social services that people’s organizations have been able 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,” Bolinget ended.  ***

    You may contact the following references for follow-up interviews:
    Windel Bolinget (CPA) –       0917 585 9271    | Audrey Beltran (CHRA) – 09189199007
    Mary Ann Gabayan (IHRA) – 0909 992 8570 | Antonio Pugyao (StopEx) – 0905 127 5682

    Click here to read the above statement in PDF.

    KASTAN – Cordillera Peoples Alliance Abra Chapter
    Press Release, 9 November 2017

    The Military are the Terrorists!

    During the past few months, the 24th Infantry Battalion of the 7th Infantry Division, Philippine Army has been waging a smear campaign against KASTAN and threatening its leaders and staff with lawsuits.  The 24th IB has alleged that KASTAN is nothing more than a terrorist front; that its staff and at least one of its community leaders are recruiters for the “terrorist” New People’s Army; that the services KASTAN renders to communities are just means for luring these communities into the “terrorist” movement.

    KASTAN is a legitimate federation of Abrenian people’s organizations who are committed to the defense of land and life.  Although it mainly consists of indigenous Tinggian community organizations, numbering 44 at present, it counts among its members six Ilocano peasant community organizations.  Provincial sectoral formations of the peasantry (Tumakder), youth (Anakbayan), and women (BIDANG) are also affiliated with KASTAN, as is the multi-sectoral Abra Human Rights Movement (AHRM).

    Since it was founded in 1998, KASTAN has helped its member-organizations protect their lands and assert their socio-economic, civil, and political rights.  Although it has done this mainly by channeling information and providing education on relevant issues, KASTAN has also directly engaged in dialogue, confrontation, and protest regarding projects and activities that are harmful to communities, such as large mining and so-called civil-military operations in which human rights violations are common.  KASTAN and its member-organizations have been instrumental in preventing the destruction of Abra by global mining giants such as Newmont and Newcrest, and relatively smaller Philippine mining companies such as Lepanto, Philex, and Golden Lake.

    KASTAN has also strived to help communities gain access to government and non-government projects and services, such as irrigation and waterworks, health education and medical care.  In the aftermath of major calamities, such as Typhoons Pepeng (2009), Juan (2010), Ineng-Lando (2015), and Karen-Lawin (2016), KASTAN has served as a channel for the delivery of relief goods to Abrenian communities from non-governmental organizations and the Church.  Now the 24th IB is accusing KASTAN of using socio-economic projects and disaster relief as gateways for the “terrorist infiltration” of villages.

    It is not KASTAN but the military – especially the 24th IB and the 81st IB, both outfits of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army – that have been behaving like terrorists in Abra.  It was the military that bombed Malibcong in March and laid siege to Boliney in July, terrorizing civilians instead of going after the combatants of the New People’s Army who had engaged them and the police in battle in these municipalities.  It was the military and the police who, on October 27, raided the home of Pastor Eugene Antonio in Dolores, carrying a search warrant for a gun that was never there and seizing instead the legal records of the local community organizations.  It is the military who have been illegally detaining and interrogating civilians in various parts of the province, and intimidating them into surrendering as NPA combatants.

    We condemn these actions of the military and assert our legitimacy as a federation of Abra citizens’ organizations!

    Timpuyog ti Umili a Mannalon ti Abra, Depensaran ti Rekursosna (Tumakder)
    Babbai Itandudo Dasig nga Anak ling-et ken Nawaya a Gimong (BIDANG, Innabuyog Abra Chapter)
    Anakbayan Abra Chapter
    Abra Human Rights Movement and the 50 community organizations who are members of KASTAN

    Click here to read the above statement from KASTAN in PDF.

    Also read the statement from Ubbon di Binabai ad Ifugao (UBI), Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM) and Pun-oohaan di Nungkanomnoman ad Ifugao (PNI) on the attacks on women and IP activists here