STOP THE POLITICAL PERSECUTION OF LEGAL AND PROGRESSIVE PEOPLE’S ORGANIZATIONS!
SCRAP OPERATION PLAN BAYANIHAN!
There has been no respite in the State’s attack and persecution of legal and progressive people’s organizations. The human rights violations under the rule of President Benigno Aquino III continue to sow fear among the people. It further constricts the democratic space to a span where fundamental human rights cannot be realized.
On January this year, Ms. Mila Aowat , the Health Programs Desk Coordinator of the Community Health Education Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE) received death threats on her mobile phone. The message was delivered through a series of text messages from an unidentified texter. One of the text messages said “Alalahanin mo kads sinasalang mo ang buhay mo. Pagwala ka nang silbi tsak ka na.” This was not the first death threat she received. Ms. Aowat also received a threat message last December which also said, ““Isang umaapoy na pagbati syo kasamang Ja ngayong pasko. Tanggapin mo kasama ang rebolusyonaryo pagbati ng mga kasamang hukbo! Nagmamalasakit lang ako. Mag-ingat ka kasama kung nais mong mabuhay pa! Meri krismas at sana may bagong taon pa.”
Germelina Cynth Dacanay, CHESTCORE Medical Services Desk Coordinator who also handles their Special Program on Mental Health and Rosalinda Suyam, Networking and Advocacy Desk Coordinator also received messages on their mobile phones clearly intending to harm them. The staff and volunteers observed that the CHESTCORE office is under surveillance and that there were instances when they were being followed by suspicious looking men believed to be State security forces.
In the course of providing health trainings and services for communities, the staff and volunteers of CHESTCORE, have been tagged as sympathizers or members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA). During field work, they have been harassed, threatened or intimidated by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in combat military operations in communities.
This has been an experience that has continued from the Arroyo to the Aquino regime.
Why are our healthworkers who provide much-needed service to the people subjected to such? It is because the policy and treatment of the State on legal and progressive people’s organizations and institutions has not changed in essence even with the change of Operation Plans. Those critical about government policies, governance and human rights records continue to be regarded as sectoral fronts of revolutionary formations such as the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and thus, are considered as enemies of the State. The illegal arrest and detention of the Morong 43 healthworkers is still fresh in our minds.
When the CHESTCORE staff and the community healthworkers are not allowed to do their work, or are being threatened in their work, impoverished communities who are in dire need of health and medical care and services suffer as well.
The Aquino government’s internal peace and security plan Operation Plan Bayanihan replaced Arroyo’s counter-insurgency plan Operation Plan Bantay Laya. This new policy which is under the framework of the United States Counter-insurgency Guide of 2009 was introduced last December. It is more deceiving than the last policy. It aims to achieve peace and respect human rights in its “people-centered approach” yet it has already resulted to 10 cases of extrajudicial killings from January to February alone. This data does not yet include the extrajudicial killing of the latest victim, 61-year old Bonifacio Labasan of San Mateo, Isabela – coordinator of the Danggayan dagiti Mannalon iti Cagayan Valley (Union of Peasants in Cagayan Valley). Under Aquino, there are already 42 documented cases of extrajudicial killings.
In these continuing trying times, we stand by the CHESTCORE staff and community health workers. We strongly denounce this political persecution. The surveillance, threats, and cases of intimidation against them must immediately cease and the perpetrators must be held accountable. These healthworkers should be provided protection and their families’ safety and security be ensured.
We assert that the targeting and labeling of legal people’s organizations by the State should stop. We call on the President Benigno Aquino III to withdraw Oplan Bayanihan and we would like to strongly remind him that the Philippine government should sincerely respect and protect human rights.#