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September 11, 2008

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CHRA Condemns Continuing Harassment of Abra Human Rights Worker

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) strongly condemns the
repeated harassment of Irene Timbreza and her family.

Timbreza is the Deputy Secretary General of KASTAN, the Cordillera
People's Alliance Abra chapter and the spokesperson for the Abra Human
Rights Alliance (AHRA). On July 25, 2008, Timbeza received a text
message from an unidentified sender warning, "You better start
preparing, you will die on Nov 1." She dismissed the message as a prank
until her daughter received a similar message in August 23 warning, "On
November 1, your mother will die. Show her this message otherwise your
mother will really die." Both believed that these messages come from
elements of the military. They feel threatened by these and are worried
for Timbreza's life.

As an executive member of both KASTAN and AHRA, Timbreza, a respected
community leader, actively participates in fact finding missions,
dialogues and campaigns against the massive human rights violations
brought on by mining and militarization in the province of Abra.
Timbreza and the CHRA attribute this recent harassment to the 503rd
Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (IBPA) of the Armed Forces of
the Philippines (AFP), which is currently based in the province
conducting massive counter-insurgency operations under the directive of
Oplan Bantay Laya, especially in areas where there are active mining

In July, before receiving the threatening text messages, Timbreza and one
of her colleagues from KASTAN were heavily under surveillance in their
work by elements of the military. In the same month, the two women were
part of a mission to retrieve three bodies of alleged members of the New
People's Army (NPA) killed during a firefight in Sallapadan, Abra. This
was in response to the request of the family of those killed and their
obligation as fellow binodngan or tribal members. During the retrieval,
unidentified elements of 41st Infantry Battalion took photos and video
footage of Timbreza and her colleague. After which, an unidentified
motorcycle-riding man again took pictures of the women while waiting for
the bodies to be embalmed in Bangued. This harassing surveillance
unnerved, and now doubly frightens Timbreza with the text messages
threatening her life.

The harassment of Irene Timbreza is not an isolated incident but part of
a larger policy of the State under Oplan Bantay Laya, to tag people's
organizations and their staff and volunteers as "front organizations"
and "supporters" of the NPA. The AFP treats them as enemies of the
State. This policy has led to the surveillance, harassment and
intimidation, and killing of people's advocates and human rights
workers all over the country.

The CHRA expresses its concern over these threats against Timbreza, since
similar threats have preceded the extrajudicial killing of many
activists in the country. We call on the 503rd Brigade to stop its
surveillance and harassment of people's advocates and human rights
workers in Abra. We also call on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to
immediately cease the implementation of Oplan Bantay Laya and the
harassment, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of
activists across the country.

Jude Baggo
Secretary General
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance

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