“The year 2007 showed us that despite the many cases of harassments, threats and intimidations such as the filing of fabricated cases and other forms of human rights violations in Ilocos, the people remained vigilant and firm in their fight for their rights. This year, we are intensifying our fight for the advancement of human rights by mass education through paralegal trainings, workshops and other activities” – Ilocos Human Rights Advocates.
BY ZOFIA LEAL
Vol. VII, No. 48, January 13-19, 2008
“The year 2007 showed us that despite the many cases of harassments, threats and intimidations such as the filing of fabricated cases and other forms of human rights violations in Ilocos, the people remained vigilant and firm in their fight for their rights. An affirmation of this is the creation of the La Union Peace and Justice Advocates (LUPJA) last December which is the manifestation of the churches’ solidarity with the struggle against human rights violations. This year, we are intensifying our fight for the advancement of human rights by mass education through paralegal trainings, workshops and other activities”, Rani Urbis said. Urbis is the Public Information Officer of Ilocos Human Rights Advocates (IHRA)-Karapatan.
In the Ilocos region, 60 cases of human rights violations affecting 500 victims were documented last year.
Examples of fabricated cases charged against civilians are those of Avelino Dacanay and Pastor Jun Bonuan. Dacanay, the present Chairperson of Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation) was arrested and detained by elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) last February 14, 2007 on charges of murder. He was charged with killing his neighbor despite the fact that someone else confessed to the crime. Bonuan and his brother were also arrested by elements of the PNP Regional Intelligence Group 14 last April 22, 2007 for the murder of former Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) leader Conrado Balweg. Both Dacanay and Bonuan were released late last year due to insufficient evidence.
Other cases of human rights violations in Ilocos include harassments and death threats against Cindy Relucio, coordinator of Gabriela Women’s Party for the Ilocos Region. Relucio received text messages such as Ur Next! Bang! Bang! and NPA-Relucio from February to May 2007. By July 22, a profile sheet from the PNP was received by Relucio. The most recent incident was when Relucio’s father received a text message that read “Cindy is Dead.”
According to Urbis, such harassments and threats are part of the Arroyo government’s moves to silence the people calling for her ouster. “The systematic attack against the people are further legitimized through Oplan Bantay Laya I and II and the Human Security Act of 2007 (HSA). Although the OBL I and II and the HSA is being presented as anti-terrorist policies, it is already proven that all these are being used by the state to terrorize the people,” Urbis stressed.
Human rights education
Last Friday, Jan. 11, the IHRA conducted a paralegal training with different youth organizations in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur as part of their intensified campaign to educate the people of Ilocos regarding the present human rights situation in the Philippines. The training was attended by students mostly from the University of Northern Philippines (UNP).
The paralegal training tackled several topics such as the basic human rights orientation, lexicon on human rights violations and methods of documentation.
According to one of the participants during the open forum, “It is important for the youth to know about the present human rights situation and how they can contribute for its advancement. Paralegal trainings and other activities that educate the people about their human rights are important in our goal of struggling for our rights”.
The paralegal training is the first of a series of trainings and workshops that the IHRA would convene in the different provinces of Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, and La Union. Aside from said activities, the IHRA is currently preparing for the IHRA Congress by mid-2008.
“This year, we know that the Arroyo government will still continue with its human rights violations, but we are ready, the people of Ilocos are ready. Through our intensified campaign and activities, Arroyo will not succeed in her plans of silencing the people. We have proved that last year, we can do it again this year,” Urbis said.(Bulatlat.com)