The harassment indicates the “worsening trends of political repression against union organizers and political activists, and attempts to disrupt the organizations’ activities and terrorize people involved in development and human rights work.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Union leaders, government workers and children’s rights advocates filed complaints before the Commission on Human Rights on the harassment and surveillance they experienced from suspected members of the military and the police.
They filed the complaint before the CHR on Monday, June 8.
Courage national president Ferdinand Gaite said the harassment indicates the “worsening trends of political repression against union organizers and political activists, and attempts to disrupt the organizations’ activities and terrorize people involved in development and human rights work.”
Days before the May Day rally, five members of Courage received letters threatening and red-tagging them as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Those who received letters were: National Food Authority (NFA) employees Roman Sanchez, who is national president of the NFA Employees Association (NFAEA) and Evelyn Garcia, national assistant secretary general of NFAEA; National Housing Authority employees Rosalinda Nartates, who is the national president of the Consolidated Union of Employees (CUE-NHA) and also COURAGE secretary general, and Fely Saño, CUE-NHA second vice president, and Manuel Baclagon national president of the Social Welfare Employees Association-Department of Social Welfare and Development (SWEAP-DSWD) and former COURAGE Deputy Secretary General.
Apart from the letters, a certain Sgt. Borres attempted to enter the NFA premises on April 21. He introduced himself as a liaison officer of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) and said that he is looking for retired employee and union leader Evelyn Garcia. He was barred by the lobby security guard and was brought to their security service office as he was carrying a .45 calibre pistol. Borres failed to present a mission order and left the government office.
Two children’s rights advocates were also harassed by suspected state forces in May.
Madella Santiago, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns chairperson, and Eilekrenes Manano, Treatment and Rehabilitation Coordinator and case worker of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), one of Salinlahi’s member organizations, were tailed from their office by suspected military and police agents from May 14 to 16.
Santiago is also the spokesperson of the Save our Schools Network. The two women are both registered social workers.
“This is a clear act of harassment and reprisal on our active opposition to government policies and programs that are not beneficial for Filipino children and their families,” said Kharlo Manano, Salinlahi secretary general.
The CRC, he added, has been documenting cases and providing services to children victims of human rights violations. Salinlahi is a lead convener of the Save our Schools Network, which is vocal in opposing the cases of military attacks and encampment on alternative schools for peasant and indigenous peoples’ communities in the countryside.
Karapatan said the complainants are among the 125,061 victims of threats and harassment under the Aquino administration. Most of these victims are based in rural areas.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said the harassment and surveillance against progressive workers “puts their lives and work at increasing risk.” She attributed the human rights violations to the government counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan.