Stop criminalizing development work and harassing activists
A wave of raids and mass arrests have descended upon Metro Manila and Bacolod City since Oct. 31, specifically targeting activists and development workers. Among them are farmers, agricultural workers, trade unionists, cultural performers, community organizers and even minors.
A few days later, government officials red-tagged several humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in disaster relief and rehabilitation, and also organizations advocating for indigenous peoples’ rights in the Cordillera region as fronts of the so-called “communist terrorist group.”
These organizations have already belied the government’s baseless accusations, and some have even subjected their offices to inspections by the Commission on Human Rights just to prove that they are not in possession of firearms and explosives.
With the threat to the lives of many activists, development workers and human rights defenders, the general public must realize that their individual rights are also endangered with the culture of impunity reigning in the country.
Development workers and progressive NGOs are involved in providing social services to marginalized groups and strive to address maldevelopment issues such as unemployment, landlessness, hunger, illiteracy, lack of access to health services, workers’ rights, children’s rights, environmental protection and similar concerns.
However, with the success of their programs came the maltreatment of state security forces. Many of the government’s actions are meant to criminalize persons involved in development work and to legitimize the harassment being perpetuated against them by the police and military.
The government justifies these brutalities by saying that development workers are members of the New People’s Army (NPA) or that their socioeconomic projects benefit the NPA. But the truth is that the beneficiaries of these projects are the poor rural and urban communities.
Moreover, activists are at the forefront of upholding the people’s basic human rights, are critical of unjust and dubious government policies and programs, and demand accountability from those in power. Thus, every citizen benefits from their tireless determination and sincerity in serving the people.
Past Philippine presidents, and now President Duterte and his administration, continually fail to understand that genuine development happens when human rights are respected and enjoyed by the people, instead of being restricted. The President’s efforts to silence his critics are failing miserably, and instead, their voices are growing louder with every human rights violation he instigates.
BISHOP DINDO RANOJO
Diocese of Tarlac, Iglesia Filipina Independiente
Assert Socio Economic Initiatives Network
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