By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – For six years, Kelly M. Delgado, secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) has been experiencing harassments.
On May 16, 2008, when Delgado was invited for a radio interview in Kidapawan City after peasant leader Celso Pojas was killed, the radio station received a text message accusing Delgado of being a supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA) and warning him that he would be the next one to be killed.
The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).
On Nov. 27, 2009 several charges were filed against Delgado by the military. “We checked the local courts and found out that Delgado was charged with multiple murder, frustrated murder and theft. It was filed before Branch 3 of the Regional Trial Court in Nabuntaran City, Compostella Valley. The charges are based on a supposed encounter between the NPA and the military.” said Hanimay Suazo, who replaced Delgado as secretary general of Karapatan-SMR.
Since May 2008, Karapatan-SMR has documented numerous incidents of threats and harassments directed against Delgado by the 1003rd Infantry Battalion of the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
In a press conference, Brig. Gen. Eduardo Del Rosario, commanding officer of 1003rd IB, and Datu Ruben Labawan, an ally of Del Rosario, accused Delgado of killing Lt. Col. Randolf Cabangbang purportedly to avenge the death of Rebelyn Pitao, daughter of NPA commander Leoncio Pitao also known as Commander Parago.
On Sept. 18, Karapatan-SMR received classified information that the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Philippine Army has already issued a mission order to “physically terminate Mr. Delgado.”
But Delgado’s co-workers said in an interview through email that he is not cowed by the numerous harassments he experiences as a human rights defender. “Even if his life is at risk, he would still serve the interests of the people,” said Suazo. She added that Delgado said he would be honored if ever he would be killed because of doing his job as a defender of human rights.
Delgado has been a member of different youth and student organizations since he was a student in college. He became a member of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) and the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) in Butuan City. He was a graduate of Sociology in Fr. Aurios College in Butuan City,
According to Suazo, Delgado was a diligent activist. He volunteered to organize students in the region. “During the time when Oplan Bantay Laya was at its peak, Kelly became more active in inviting students to fact finding missions organized by Karapatan. Then in 2004, he became a volunteer of Karapatan- Far Southern Mindanao,” Suazo said.
Suazo said since Delgado became a defender of human rights, he knew the risks that goes with it. “He knew that he would experience threats. He said it is natural, or part of the work because we are fighting for people’s basic human rights and for genuine change in society.”
In 2006, Delgado became secretary general in Karapatan-SMR in Davao.
Amid the stress of human rights work, Erlin Balinton, staff of Karapatan-SMR, said Delgado would always crack jokes. “He is a funny person, he also loves to talk. But he remains firm in his defense of human rights.You would witness his bravery whenever he is being confronted by the military,” she added.
He is also a very good leader, Balinton said. “He is not detached from the people that he serves.”
Balinton added that Delgado’s family is very supportive of his work. Suazon said Delgado’s family in Butuan is also under surveillance by the military. “In August, soldiers stayed in front of Delgado’s house for four weeks,” said Suazo.
On the lighter side, Delgado loves to sing, play computer games and watch movies. He also loves to cook.
“Delgado is always there to defend people’s rights despite the threats and harassments he has been experiencing,” Suazo said. In the meantime, Karapatan has made arrangements to ensure Delgado’s safety. But that does not mean that Delgado has quit human rights work.