BAGUIO CITY — “Threats continue. Nothing has changed despite Pnoy’s promise of a ‘matuwid na daan’! We condemn this continuing assault on our staff and our institution especially inspite of our continuing resolve to render services.” This is what Ms. Romella (Mia) Liquigan-Rasalan, Community Health Education, Services and Training (CHESTCORE) Executive Director exclaimed on renewed threats received by CHESTCORE staff Ms. Milagros Ao-wat.
On July 24, Sunday afternoon, Ao-wat received threatening text messages in her cellphone from cellphone number 09093118024, warning her about a close surveillance of her whereabouts and activities.
“Take care, you are always going out, you are very daring. Why, how much pay will you get from your work when you die? Only a tribute … ay ay ay. It is hard to be brainwashed because you cannot see what is right)”, one of the text message reportedly read in Ilocano.
This was followed by another: “Who am I? You don’t need to know my name. You very well know who we are who are after you. You say we are harassing you.”
Ms. Ao-wat is the CHESTCORE staff who complained of having received several death threats last December, 2010 and January, 2011 through her cellphone. These comprise some of the incidents that pushed CHESTCORE to campaign since March this year against the harassment of Cordillera health workers as the group also exposed the continuing threats to its staff and volunteers in Baguio City and while doing field work in the Cordillera since 2007.
Their campaign aimed not only to expose the threats but also to help assert the people’s right to health. CHESTCORE, a non-government health institution established in 1981, has been serving far-flung Northern Luzon communities which are not being reached or else little served by government health services. Unfortunately, they reported that instead of being commended for doing such work, CHESTCORE has been accused of being supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA), or of being NPAs themselves.
“The threats have not stopped. This is appalling because what we do is provide much-needed health services and yet, this is what we get,” Ao-wat said. “We have already reported this to the Commission on Human Rights. They have yet to bring out their report on past cases and now, there are new threats,” Ms. Liquigan-Rasalan added.
“This is not really surprising even if the people had pinned much hope for change under the Aquino administration. Aquino has launched Oplan Bayanihan last December 2010, an anti-insurgency program that includes vilification or tagging of progressive organizations as ‘underground organizations.’ This has replaced former president Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya, which resulted in more than 1,000 extra-judicial killings among militant groups” Mr. Jude Baggo, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance Secretary-General, said.
“But all this has to stop! We shall highlight CHESTCORE’s case in our Assembly this July 28 & 29 in Ifugao and especially when we launch our anti-vilification campaign after that,” he added.
CHESTCORE and CHRA vowed to do more for this campaign as they urged the public to support their appeals to stop human rights violations in the region.