Posted: January 28, 2007
CPA ACTION ALERT: Arroyo Regime Steps Up State Terrorism with Oplan Bantay Laya II

From November to December 2006, including the holiday break, a motorcycle-riding man went around the neighborhood of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) secretary general Windel Bolinget, usually from 7 AM to 10 AM. Family members and some neighbors noted that the motorcycle did not have a plate number. When Bolinget arrived from the province this January 2007, the motorcycle was again visible in the neighborhood. Two unidentified men were observed to have been watching his house from a fixed point.

In response to an urgent alert issued by the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) on September 19, 2006 regarding the surveillance and harassment of CPA staff Mr. Santos Mero and Ms. Abigail Bengwayan, the national office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) mandated the Baguio City Police Office and the Benguet Provincial Police to conduct a thorough investigation of the case.

On September 19, 2006, Abigail Bengwayan, head of the CPA Public Information Commission and the CPA human rights officer was assaulted by an unidentified man on her way home in La Trinidad, Benguet. This was immediately reported to the municipal police station. Simultaneously, Santos Mero was tailed by a motorcycle-riding man on his way home from the office. Mero is the regional spokesperson of the national alliance against mining, Defend Patrimony, the deputy secretary general of CPA, and also staff of the CPA Public Information Commission.

The investigation
After receiving a directive from the PNP National Headquarters, officers of the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) – Investigation Section visited the CPA office to conduct interviews with Mero on December 12. Following this, officers of the La Trinidad Police Investigation Section interviewed Bengwayan also at the CPA office on December 18.

Mero recounted the details of the incident to the investigating police officers after which he was asked if this is related to the issue on threats to political activists. Mero reported that his house was forcibly entered in October 2005 followed by an attempt to break into the house again a few days later. This was immediately reported to the nearest police station. Bengwayan relayed the details of her assault and further discussed the details and updates on the harassment and surveillance of the CPA staff starting in 2005, to present.

Both Mero and Bengwayan also presented and discussed to the investigating police a memorandum dated November 22, 2006 from the Baguio City Police Office to all precincts in the city bearing the subject “Threat Assessment on Cordillera Activist.” The letter bears seven names of officers from CPA, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and Bayan Muna Partylist, among them Mero and Bengwayan. The memo required a conduct of background investigation on names listed, and the threat posed on these individuals. On November 26, 2006, Police Precinct Commander 2 Cirilo Butigan issued a letter to the barangay council of Brgy. Dizon, whose content appears to be inconsistent from the BCPO memorandum dated Nov. 22, 2006 requesting the Threat Assessment to Cordillera Political Activists. Butigan requested for a residency certification of the listed names, and if these individuals have records filed in the said barangay.

As early as February 2006, the CPA staff have been reporting incidents pertaining to the harassment and surveillances of the staff to the local police. However, CPA was never furnished a copy of the reports of the investigating officers, despite its requests for such, as early as the BCPO interviews with CPA secretary general Windel Bolinget and former CPA chairperson Joan Carling during the first quarter of 2006.

During the latest interviews/investigation with Mero and Bengwayan, CPA again requested that CPA be given a copy of the report of the investigating officers to their respective offices. The La Trinidad Municipal Police furnished a copy of its report to the CPA, after submitting it to the Benguet Provincial Police on December 19, 2006. The investigators from the BCPO meanwhile said that they needed to get the permission of their superiors first.

Series of events
The chronology of events show the appalling intensification of harassment, surveillance, and the actual political assassination of CPA officers, members, and its network, which proves all the more the execution of a national policy to gradually silence the Philippine mass movement by liquidating its members, and sow fear and terror among colleagues, families, and communities of the victims:

April 2000-The CPA office, then located at Leonard Wood Road, Baguio City, was raided by unidentified men believed to be elements of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP). This happened during the Cordillera Day celebration, when the staff were attending the annual activity. Important documents, including computers, were wheeled away.

March 9, 2005-Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Ilocos Secretary General and Bayan Muna Partylist Ilocos region Coordinator Romeo Sanchez was shot dead in broad daylight, in a crowded area, at the Baguio City Public market while buying second-hand clothing (wagwag) for his children.

October 2005-On the early morning of October 31, 2005, unidentified men tried to break in the office, in its current location, by cutting the padlock used to secure the front gate. A staff who was at the office that time checked peered outside when the dogs started barking and shouted at the unidentified men, who took off in a waiting vehicle. The electric wires leading to the office were also cut.

November 28, 2005- COURAGE (Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement Government Employees) Coordinator for Abra province Albert Terredaño, who was also the president of their employees’ union at the Department of Agrarian Reform in Abra, was shot dead on his way to work in Bangued, Abra, also in broad daylight. Read Separate Article

November 29, 2005-Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Coordinator for Ilocos and Cordillera regions Jose “Pepe” Manegdeg was killed by a spray of bullets by unidentified men in San Esteban, Ilocos Sur. Manegdeg was on his way to Metro Manila to meet his wife at the airport. This January 2006, the Philippine National Police has identified a “Joel Castro” of the Philippine Army’s 50th Infantry Brigade as the main suspect in the killing. Read Separate Article

February 2006-The CPA learned of a military hitlist to liquidate key leaders of the Cordillera peoples’ mass movement, including officers of the CPA, Bayan Muna-Cordillera, and Alyansa dagit Pesane iti Taeng Kordilyera (APIT TAKO). Read Separate Article

January to June 2006-No let up in the surveillance and harassment of CPA’s officers, members, its network organizations, and the office vicinity itself. In all these occasions, the CPA continued to issue Action Alerts, which reaps significant international support up to present. The surveillance and harassment include that of APIT TAKO leaders Vergel Aniceto and Julian Gayumba. Read Separate Articles

May 16, 2006- TIMMAWA (Tignayan dagiti Mannalon A Mangwayawaya Ti Agno) Chairperson and peasant leader Jose Doton, 62, was shot in his hometown of San Nicolas, Pangasinan, on board a motorcycle. His brother was seriously wounded. Doton figured in the Pangasinan and Benguet peoples' struggle against the construction of the San Roque Multipurpose Dam, which greatly and adversely affected peasants in the said provinces. Read Separate Article

June 8, 2006- One of CPA’s most dedicated leaders, Rafael Markus Bangit, was shot dead at Isabela province. He was en route to Baguio City from Kalinga province with his eldest son, who was to attend college. A peacepact holder himself, Makoy was the regional coordinator of the CPA Elders Desk, secretary general of the Binodngan People’s Organization, former chairperson of CPA-Kalinga province, and the vice chairperson of Bayan Muna Partylist in Kalinga. Read Separate Article

July 31, 2006-Less than two months after Makoy’s political assassination, Dr. Constancio “Chandu” Claver, wife Alyce, and their youngest daughter were ambushed in Tabuk by unidentified men in vans. Dr. Claver survived the shooting with a badly damaged arm. Unfortunately, Alyce died after five hours of fighting for her life at the local hospital. Dr. Claver is the chairperson of Bayan Muna Partylist in Kalinga province. Both husband and wife have been actively supporting the campaigns of the CPA, even during their college years in Metro Manila. Read Separate Article

September 19, 2006-Santos Mero, Defend Patrimony-Cordillera spokesperson and CPA deputy secretary general was tailed by a motorcycle-riding man on his way home from the office. Prior to this, Mero’s home was broken into. In the same evening, Abigail Bengwayan, head of the CPA’s Public Information Commission and CPA’s Human Rights Officer, was attacked by a knife-wielding man on her way home from the office. Mero is also a staff of the Public Information Commission. Read Separate Article

November 18, 2006-Couple Jose Cawiding and Jeannete Ribaya-Cawiding were tailed by a motorcycle-riding man when the couple left their residence to visit a family friend. En route, they encountered a man sending a radio message, prompting the receiver at the end of the line t o hurry up, or he will lose track of the couple who took a detour upon notice of the motorcycle. Prior to this incident, their residence was under close surveillance, which neighbors even observed, because of the presence of un identified men in the vicinity. Read Separate Article

Oplan Bantay Laya II
On December 2006, the Armed Forces of the Philippines confirmed to the media of a counter-insurgency plan—Oplan Bantay Laya—which it claimed to have been successful with the deaths of New People’s Army (NPA) members across the nation. These deaths are actually the 820 killings of innocent civilians, since 2001 to December 31, 2006 under GMA’s administration. Oplan Bantay Laya is the same national policy that claimed the lives of 820 civilians, most of these members and officers of progressive legal organizations, such as the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, from 2001-December 2006. Oplan Bantay Laya claimed 33 lives in the Cordillera region. With the Arroyo government’s declaration of a success to this killing spree against civilians, it has reaffirmed that human rights and democracy have no place in the country under this regime, and that the Arroyo regime has no respect for the right to life, human rights, and due process.

With Oplan Bantay Laya 2, we anticipate a more gruesome and murderous regime, especially with the snowballing outpour of discontent, condemnation, and unrest from the local communities up to the international communities. The nearing elections will be far from bloodless, as progressive partylists too are victims of the GMA regime’s state terrorism. The coming months will again challenge the resilience of the mass movement, which the Arroyo government tried hard to silence by cowardly acts of murder. Knowing it has essentially failed to cripple the legitimate people’s movement and cause for human rights, peace, and justice, which it does not differentiate from the revolutionary armed movement; GMA will once more unleash lethal means to try to destroy the people’s movement in her desperation to perpetuate in power, and carry on with its subservience to George Bush’s war on terror.

Call for support
This 2007, the Arroyo regime will not tone down its national policy of political killings and grave human rights violations. But the regime should be aware that the people’s movement is not backing down either from this situation, which literally entails life issues—its sanctity, its being a basic human right. We will not be silenced. The international community had condemned her acts of human rights violations, and that the Philippines continues to lose face in the global arena for having earned a reputation of a disorder, rights violations, and impunity.

With these, we continue to call on to individuals and organizations in the Cordillera region, the country and the world to continue to support us in this cause to defend life, human rights, and pursue social justice. Your support, through letters of concern and statements of condemnation, created a strong, overwhelming impact to government agencies, especially to the victims’ families and communities. We continue to seek your material, financial, and moral support in this continuing campaign, under this very critical situation.

Let us make the year 2007 one that will advance the people’s struggle for life, peace and social justice by continuing the call to STOP THE KILLINGS and RESPECT THE SANCTITY OF LIFE with your continuing support to end this regime’s these crimes of humanity.


January 27, 2007

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