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.