Letter to the Editor: Defend human rights defenders

Opinion & Analysis Philippines Dec 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Recently, 28 individuals who are community leaders, volunteer development workers and local human rights defenders in Tinoc, Ifugao (Philippines) were listed in a document  “ Municipality of  Tinoc (Target Persons) that was issued by the 86th Battalion (Highlander) of the 5th Infantry (Star) Division of the Philippine Armed Forces labelling those in the list as “supporters of the New People’s Army, brains of the NPA, giving food to the NPAs.” Included in the list is Jude Baggo, the General Secretary of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance.

Among those who expressed their concern over this harassment and vilification of leaders of legal organizations   is the Moderator of the United Church of Canada, Reverend Gary James Paterson who called the attention of President Aquino III and leading authorities of Phil. government, to ensure the safety of the individuals who are in the list. He further said that labelling of civilians as supporters or members of an insurgent organization has frequently led to their assassination, disappearance or arbitrary arrest and detention. He further urged an independent, thorough and prompt investigation into the threats made against the individuals and direct the commanding authority of the 86th Battalion (Highlander) of the 5th Infantry (Star) Division of the Philippine Armed Forces to stop circulating this dangerous document. The labelling and political vilification of CPA and CHRA unjustly make them open targets of various human rights violations.

December 10,2012 is the 64th anniversary of International Human Rights Day. As we observe this, let us not forget indigenous women and men who were killed, tortured, disappeared, harassed and threatened because of their assertion and defence of their right to land, life and resources as mining corporations and other forms of development aggression invade their communities.
Within the presidency of Benigno Aquino III, already 30 indigenous peoples have become victims of extrajudicial killings, among these are 4 children and 5 women. The relentless killing of indigenous leaders, activists and human rights defenders in country only shows that impunity continues to thrive in the country.  Where the sacredness of life is no longer respected and rights are openly violated, let us rise up and call for justice.

Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center

16 Loro St., Dizon Subdivision, Baguio City