Assert Our Human Rights, Assert Our Human Dignity!
The right to life, liberty, development and self
determination are among the basic rights of every human being. We
celebrate these rights today, International Human Rights Day, in
commemoration of the adoption and proclamation of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights in December 10, 1948.
We remember this historic event in an ironic context,
in a bleak state of affairs.
With the three-year extension of Oplan Bantay Laya
starting this year, the cases of extrajudicial killings have reached
887 and the cases of enforced disappearances have totalled to 185
under the rule of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
This year alone in the Cordillera, we have documented
nine (9) cases of extrajudicial killings, two (2) cases of frustrated
extrajudicial killings, illegal detention of two (2) individuals
, three (3) cases of abduction, and arson/destruction of properties
directly affecting thirty four (34) households with 216 individuals
among the human rights violations.
Beyond these distressing statistics, the documented
cases present to the public the people's organizations, communities
and especially, families who have been violated and have been deprived
The political persecution of the State against the
militant mass movement continues. The case of Jose "Joe Cawiding
is an example. Cawiding, Secretary General of the Metro Baguio Tribal
Leaders Assembly (MBTELA), accredited mediator of the Supreme Court
and former Bayan Muna coordinator for Benguet was arrested last
October 1, 2007 on fabricated charges of eight (8) counts of murder
and one (1) count of frustrated murder. Cawiding is being accused
of being part of the ambush staged by the New People's Army in July
14, 2003 where eight soldiers died and one was wounded. At that
time, he was in Teacher's Camp, Baguio City attending a Bayan Muna
National Council meeting.
In the framework of Operation Plan Bantay Laya through
the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG), the charges place civilians
like Cawiding in the same light as combatants, or members of the
revolutionary organizations who are targets of the government's
counter-insurgency program. The motive behind the fabricated cases,
arrest and detention is part of the efforts of the Arroyo government
to neutralize legitimate legal political dissent. Cawiding is being
deprived of his liberty and kept away from his work and his family
because of this.
The conscious commission of human rights violations
is done to sow fear and to silence those who raise critique against
government programs and policies. The abduction of Vangie Tadeo
of Kakailian Salakaniban Tay Amin a Nagtaudan (KASTAN) Abra last
November 29 by suspected members of the Criminal Inspection and
Detection Group (CIDG) was done with the same intention.
To pave the way for government projects, especially
mining, the extent of militarization in the region is such that
at least 16 regular companies (Coys), one Division Reconnaissance
Coy (53rd), 6 service Coys (HQ Coys of brigade and battalion), and
4 support units of the Philippine Army of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines are deployed in Northwestern Luzon.
In addition, the Task Force Montañosa (TFM)
was formed in November 2006 for counter-insurgency operations. Composed
of the 41st IB, 50th IB, 54th IB, 53rd Recon Coy, 21st IB and the
PNP-RMG CAR, its operations are along the boundaries of Abra, Mountain
Province and Ilocos Sur - defined as a "win" area under
Operation Plan Bantay Laya II.
The assault against our human rights by the Arroyo
government has been furthered with the passing and implementation
of the Human Security Act of 2007 this year.
With these experiences, the statements of President
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that she has been addressing the human rights
situation in the nation and the Medalla de Oro given to her by the
Universidad de Alcala for "defense of human rights" is
The gold medal for GMA's championing human rights
is a mockery of the experiences of victims of human rights violations
- those who experience hunger, loss of homes and livelihood through
demolition, those who have lost their lives, their kin, their land
and their dignity as humans.
In his final report, even Prof. Philip Alston stated
the democratic rights that the people of the Philippines
fought so hard to assert are under serious threat". This was
seconded in a statement by the World Council of Churches (WCC).
Thus, all the more we resist the repression. The
true celebration of human rights is the assertion for its genuine
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA)
Cordillera Peoples Alliance
Tongtongan ti Umili