“Is the AFP trying to play catch-up with the horrid human rights record of the previous administration?”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon slammed the harassment on progressive youth groups by suspected military agents, weeks ahead of President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (Sona).
Ridon said youth groups have reported incidents of surveillance in their headquarters and even in homes of students who are members of progressive youth groups.
“We decry the systematic attacks against our youth organizations and members by suspected elements of the military. Reports of threat, intimidation, and covert surveillance operations by the military have escalated in recent weeks. We denounce such acts in the strongest possible terms and call on newly-appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Hernando Iriberri to explain the motive behind these incidents,” Ridon said.
Ridon said that on June 16, two men in civilian clothes who introduced themselves as soldiers went to Kabataan Partylist’s headquarters in Teachers Village, Quezon City and asked for a certain “Ka Tonio.”
The staff told the men that there was no Ka Tonio residing there. The soldiers insisted and showed a side-profile photo of a man whom they referred to as Ka Tonio. The men eventually just asked the staff to give “Ka Tonio” a piece of paper with a cellphone number and the name “Alma.”
Days after the incident, members of the Kabataan Partylist spotted “men with crewcut hair” standing in front of the headquarters, talking on their cellphones.
“We believe that these snooping operations have a single goal – and that’s to harass and intimidate us,” Ridon said. He said information about Kabataan partylist is public in nature and may be seen in their website.
Members of the League of Filipino Students also reported the same. Unknown men have repeatedly been visiting and observing their headquarters in Manila in the past weeks.
Several student activists from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines also reported that soldiers visited them in their homes, introduced themselves as members of the military, and told them to stop joining rallies and activities of progressive organizations, Ridon said.
Ridon said the surveillance and harassment on their organization is part of an operation to derail the Sona rally and to vilify legal progressive groups.
Progressive organizations have also reported of harassment of their official and union leaders.
Last June, children rights advocates also reported harassment and surveillance and have recently filed complaints at the Commission on Human Rights, together with state union leaders.
Ridon called on Iriberri to stop acts of intimidation, harassment, and surveillance of known progressive organizations.
“We ask: is the AFP trying to play catch-up with the horrid human rights record of the previous administration? Well, Gen. Iriberri, you need not do that, for human rights violations under the Aquino administration has so far surpassed that of the Arroyo regime,” Ridon said.
Citing the data of the human rights group Karapatan, Ridon said as of June 2015, there are 262 documented victims of extrajudicial killings and 293 victims of frustrated killings, and more than 60,000 persons displaced and dislocated due to military combat operations in the countryside since Aquino assumed power.
“We call on the AFP and the Aquino administration to stop this orchestrated move to threaten and harass youth activists and progressive organizations. The heightened attacks against critics of the government reveal the regime’s desperation amid the political crisis it is mired in,” Ridon ended.