A human rights worker in Abra continues to receive death threats through text messages from an unidentified sender allegedly from the military.
BY CYE REYES AND JUDE BAGGO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Vol. VIII, No. 32, September 14-20, 2008
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. North of Manila) – A human rights worker in Abra continues to receive death threats through text messages from an unidentified sender allegedly from the military.
Irene Timbreza, spokesperson of Abra Human Rights Alliance (AHRA) and the deputy general secretary of Kakailian Salakniban tay amin a Nagtaudan (Kastan), received on July 25 a text message from an unidentified sender warning her to be prepared because she will die on Nov. 1. Kastan is the local chapter of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).
The text message read, “You better start preparing, you will die on Nov. 1.”
Timbreza dismissed the threat as a prank until her daughter received a similar message on her cell phone on Aug. 23 saying, “On Nov. 1, your mother will die. Show her this message otherwise your mother will really die.”
According to Timbreza, she noticed that she and a colleague from Kastan have been under heavy surveillance by the military since July.
In July, the two Kastan members joined a mission to retrieve three bodies of alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) killed during a supposed encounter in Sallapadan, Abra. The retrieval mission was launched in response to the request of the families of those killed.
It was during the retrieval operations that unidentified members of the Philippine Army’s 41st Infantry Battalion took pictures and video footages of Timbreza and her colleague. They also noticed a motorcycle-riding man taking pictures of them while waiting for the bodies to be embalmed in Bangued, the capital of Abra.
According to a statement by the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) released Sept. 11, the “harassment may be attributed to the 503rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (IBPA) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), currently based in the province conducting massive counter-insurgency operations under the directive of Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch), especially in areas where there are pending mining applications.”
The statement further said the harassments are not isolated incidents but “part of a larger policy of the state to tag people’s organizations and their staff and volunteers as ‘front organizations and supporters’ of the NPA.”
“This policy has led to the surveillance, harassment and intimidation, and killing of people’s advocates and human rights workers all over the country,” said the CHRA statement.
The CHRA condemns these threats against Timbreza. They said similar threats have preceded the extra-judicial killings of many activists in the country.
According to CPA secretary-general Windel Bolinget in a phone interview, these threats frequently received by members of their organization are clear indications of intensifying political repression under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime.
“Timbreza and other members of Kastan-CPA have long been targeted by threats and harassment because of their being vocal and active participation in the campaign opposing mining applications in the province and the consequent militarization,” Bolinget said in a phone interview.
Timbreza is actively participating in fact finding missions, dialogues and campaigns against human rights violations in Abra. Northern Dispatch / Posted by (Bulatlat.com)