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To Stare at the State Straight in The Eye

September 19, 2018

Activists are not terrorists. Development workers are not terrorists. Neither are they criminals.

On September 18, 2018, Rachel Mariano, health worker and program coordinator of the Community Health Education Services and Training in the Cordillera (CHESTCORE) who faces trumped-up charges, submitted herself to the Regional Trial Court in Tagudin, Ilocos Sur to prove her innocence. Last year, different trumped-up charges were filed against Mariano and other human rights defenders on a monthly basis from July – September 2017. In February of this year, she and four other women human rights defenders submitted themselves to the Municipal Trial Courts of Galimuyod and Salcedo, Ilocos Sur and availed of the right to bail in order to face the fourteen counts of frustrated and attempted homicide in court and prove their innocence. Yesterday, she submitted herself to court again but this time she has to be detained as she faces a non-bailable trumped up charge of murder and eight cases of attempted/frustrated murder filed by the 81st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) against her and United Church of Christ in the Philippines Pastor Francisco Bonuan, Jr alleging that they were the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) they had an armed encounter with in Quirino, Ilocos Sur last year.

The submission to court and detention is an act of courage. It was a painful and difficult decision for Rachel Mariano, her husband UCCP Pastor Bill Mariano, their children – Aisa – Deputy Secretary General of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Akiva and Aira, and the rest of their family.

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Community Health Education Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE), the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC) and the wider people’s movement in the Cordillera Region stands with Rachel Mariano and her family against political persecution of human rights defenders in the context of tyranny in the country.

We condemn the State repression not just against legitimate and legal political dissent but also the attempt to deny services to government-neglected communities in the Cordillera as a result of human rights violations such as these.

Rachel S. Mariano is an indigenous Ibaloi-Kankanaey land and environmental rights defender from the Cordillera, Philippines. Since 2004, she has worked as the Health Program Desk Coordinator of the Community Health, Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera or CHESTCORE, based in Baguio City, Benguet, Philippines. CHESTCORE is the health program of the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC), a network of NGO development programs servicing different people’s organizations affiliated with the Cordillera People's Alliance (CPA).

As health program desk coordinator of CHESTCORE, Mariano supervises community health workers’ trainings in the different Cordillera provinces for the development of community-based health programs (CBHPs) in areas that do not have access to government health services. Mariano also helps organize community-based health committees to help prepare communities from health-related disasters like epidemics and ensure their right as a community to a health care program suited for them and the protection of the community from any outbreak.

The CPA, CDPC and other organizations and institutions in the region critical of government programs and policies that deny and violate people’s rights have been facing political persecution from the State. The attacks come in the form of political vilification as terrorists, threats, intimidations, harassment, encampment within residential communities, illegal arrests and detention, the filing of trumped-up charges, among others. CPA leaders and members are also currently facing a civil case filed by the Department of Justice that included their names in a petition asking the courts to proscribe the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army as “terrorist organizations”.

The United Nations recently listed the Philippines among 38 “shameful” countries which it said had carried out reprisals or intimidation against people cooperating with it on human rights through killings, torture, arbitrary arrests and filing of trumped-up charges. U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour, who will present the report to the Human Rights Council next week, said in a statement that the cases in the report were the tip of the iceberg. They are also increasingly seeing legal, political and administrative hurdles, including the disturbing trend in the use of national security arguments and counter-terrorism strategies used to intimidate and silence civil society. Today, the International People’s Tribunal Charging the Duterte and Trump Administration of Crimes Against the Filipino is on its second and final day in Brussels, Belgium. The trumped-up charges against activists were among those heard in the tribunal. Imelda Tabiando, CHRA Secretary General also testified on the 2017 indiscriminate airstrikes of the 24th IBPA of the 7th ID in Malibcong, Abra using white phosphorus bombs. The IPT verdict is expected to complement the inquiries of other international bodies on the Philippine government’s human rights records in an effort to hold Mr. Duterte, the Philippine State in collaboration with US President Donald Trump accountable for its human rights and international humanitarian law violations in the country. The findings and verdict would be submitted to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Friday. This coincides with the 46th anniversary of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law declaration which will be commemorated by protest actions against tyranny in different parts of the country. With all of these, we stare at the State straight in the eye and call out against the real terrorism the State has been unleashing against the people. For all of these, the State shall be held accountable.




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