HR abuses worse 30 years after Edsa I
IT IS rather ironic: President Corazon Aquino supposedly restored democracy in the Philippines in 1986, but the same gross human rights violations that the Marcos dictatorship was known for are being committed during the presidency of her son.
Development workers and staff of progressive NGOs have been experiencing harassment and vilification under the present regime. Member-organizations of the Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes (PNFSP) have reported numerous cases of fabricated charges that have been filed against their staff. These include murder, kidnapping and arson. The charges are so absurd that they border on the comical.
The accused have dedicated their lives to the upliftment of the lives of the rural poor—farmers and indigenous peoples. Yet, suspected “military elements” repay them by harassing them, disrupting their work and, worse, threatening their lives. Perhaps the worst cases are those of the murder of two executive directors: Wilhelm Geertman of Alay Bayan-Luzon in 2012, and Emerito Samarca of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) on Sept. 1, 2015.
The government is now targeting the socioeconomic initiatives of PNFSP members, like the Central Visayas Farmers Development Center in Trinidad-Talibon, Bohol. The center has been subjected to various forms of harassment ranging from illegal disconnection of its power supply line to unlawful incursion into its warehouse. The center operates a rice mill that serves the Trinidad-Talibon Integrated Farmers Association which procures palay at a price 50 centavos higher (per kilo) than the price set by big traders. Aside from providing farmers easy access to such a very important postharvest facility, the center charges lower milling fees, thereby increasing the farmers’ income. The harassment the center is now experiencing greatly inconveniences the farmers.
The agricultural schools for indigenous people, together with the faculty and students, have suffered the most from the harassment and militarization. They have been displaced from their ancestral lands and some of their leaders and tribesmen have been killed. As a result, the Alcadev teachers, students and their families have been living for close to six months now in the Provincial Sports Complex in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur. They used to live peacefully in the mountains of Han-ayan, that is, until the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group wreaked havoc with their community.
At present, the government is showing its incompetence and inability to maintain peace and order for the lumad by failing to capture the leaders of a paramilitary group despite a standing warrant. Instead, it has filed trumped-up charges against development workers who are working tirelessly to provide social services that the government has failed and is unwilling to give to marginalized sectors.
The 30th anniversary of the People Power Revolution should have made President Aquino ashamed of the scores of human rights violations committed by government and military forces during his regime.
—ESTRELLA CATARATA, executive director, Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, [email protected]
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