Is a crackdown in the offing? Is this part of the operations that also include the filing of absurd cases against activists?
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – There is a new form of attack against groups and individuals, who are deemed by the government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as “enemies of the state.” Members of progressive organizations and NDFP consultants have been victimized by ‘burglars’ who appear to be more interested in computers and USB flashdisks rather than money and other valuabies.’
On February 14, at around 2 p.m., two men forcibly entered the office of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-National Capital Region (Bayan-NCR), Karapatan-NCR, Ugat Lahi Artist Collective and Sining Bugkos in Arayat street, Cubao, Quezon City.
Five cellphones, two laptops, one flash disk, one Flip video camera, a tax identification number card and an adaptor for laptop were taken by the burglars. The television set, refrigerator, radio, amplifier and other appliances were left untouched.
The progressive groups deemed it is no ordinary robbery.
Paulo Quiza, spokesman of Bayan-NCR, believes that the break-in is part of the comprehensive attack against activists under the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan. Quiza cited the filing of murder charges against Bayan-NCR chairman Roy Velez and KMU-NCR deputy secretary general Amelita Gamara, the arrest of two organizers of Courage, a federation of government employees unions, among others.
“This is a direct attack against progressive organizations that are critical of the Aquino administration’s anti-people policies,” Quiza said.
The incident is not an isolated case.
On June 18, 2012, the office of party-list group Gabriela Women’s Party was broken into by unidentified persons.
The men took two desktop computers, monitors and a laptop but did not bother to touch other appliances and valuables such as the television set, DVD player, photocopying machine, printers, among others. Gabriela believed that the men were after the organization’s files.
Attacks on NDFP consultants, staff
On the night of February 9, Rey Claro Casambre, one of the NDFP consultants, and his wife, arrived home to find the lock of their house door broken. His laptop computers and one old USB flash drive were stolen, together with some cash.
A similar form of harassment was experienced by lawyer Rachel Pastores, NDFP legal consultant. On September 2012, her house was broken into and her laptop computers and USB flash drives were taken.
In a statement, the NDFP deemed that the hostile actions against persons connected with the NDFP Negotiating Panel “have all the inklings of a military intelligence operation.”
“Though the appearance of robbery may be given, it lacks credibility in the stealing of USB flash drives which are of no monetary value,” Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the NDFP panel, said in a statement sent through email.
On the same day, Rosie Tumbagahon, an independent nominee to the NDFP Joint Secretariat (JS), boarded a jeepney bound for Divisoria along Aurora boulevard at around 8 p.m. When the jeepney reached Recto avenue in Manila, the man sitting in front of Tumbagahon suddenly pulled a gun from his waist, and shouted “Walang gagalaw” (“Don’t anybody move!”) He pointed the gun, first at the driver, then to the other passengers, and then pointed it to Tumbagahon’s forehead and declared “Ito lang ang kailangan ko” (“This is the only one I need.”).
According to the account of Tumbagahon, the man slightly rose from his seat, stuck the gun to her forehead and grabbed her shoulder bag, which contains keys to the Office of the NDFP Nominated Section of the Joint Secretariat, cellphone, papers and USB sticks.
The JS was formed as part of the Joint Monitoring Committee for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Signed by both parties, CARHRIHL is the first of the four substantive agenda laid down by The Hague Joint Declaration, which sets the framework for peace talks between the GPH and the NDFP.
Tumbagahon said the man did not get anything from the other passengers and did did not bother to get the paper bag she was holding. The victim said the man was wearing a bullcap, with slightly dark complexion, around 5’4” or 5’5” in height, with heavy-built, and around 32 to 35 years old.
Jalandoni asserted that all there are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig). Pastores and Casambre are publicly known to participate in the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations and had been to Oslo o several times for the peace talks. Tumbagahon, meanwhile, has been issued a Document of Identification as a staff member of the NDFP-Nominated Section of the JS.
Jasig is a bilateral agreement providing immunity guarantees to all participants in the peace talks.
“The Aquino government is duty bound to see to it that JASIG protected persons are not subjected to surveillance, harassment or other punitive actions due to any involvement or participation in the peace negotiations,” Jalandoni said.
“Failure to provide protection to those involved in the peace negotiations puts at risk the peace negotiations. Such failure indicates that the peace negotiations with the NDFP are not a priority of the Aquino government,” he added.