By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA – A Cordilleran alliance denounced the harassment on its leaders who were held up today at several checkpoints and detained for an hour by police in Ilocos Sur province. This was the latest in the series of harassment against Cordilleran activists who were red-tagged and charged with trumped-up criminal cases by police and military.
On October 28, the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) issued an urgent report that its chairperson Windel Bolinget, Vice Chairperson Xavier Akien, and a staff of the Center of Development Programs in Cordillera (CDPC) were held up in a checkpoint at Tirad Pass in San Emilio town before 12 noon.
The three were heading back to Baguio City after attending a community meeting in Patungcaleo village in Quirino town with the people’s organization, Save Quirino Movement (SQM).
Police brought the three to the PNP outpost in San Emilio, and illegally detained them for an hour upon the directive of Police Supt. Gabriel Alessandor Labador and a certain Senior Police Officer Tolosa.
After they were released at past 1 p.m., they were flagged down again at least four times in other PNP checkpoints in the towns of Lidlidda and Banayoyo, also in Ilocos Sur.
This is, however, not the first time that members of SQM, CPA, and CDPC were harassed. The 81st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have branded progressive organizations as “communist fronts.” This October, the 81st IB has filed trumped-up charges against women human rights defenders in Cordillera. Yesterday, October 27, the 24th Infantry Battalion and police in Abra illegally searched a farmer’s house in Mudiit, Dolores. Both battalions are under the 7th Infantry Division of AFP.
On October 18, six women activists and 18 other individuals, were sued for trumped-up frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder related to an Aug. 4 armed encounter between the military and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Sitio (sub-village) Mabileg, San Ramon village, Sigay, Ilocos Sur. A certain Corporal Melvin Sevilla Saura alleged that the six women were NPA members with whom the military had an encounter that day.
The six women were: Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Sherry Mae Soledad, Rachel Mariano, Joanne Villanueva, Asia Isabella Gepte, and Shirley Ann Angiwot.
Alikes and Soledad are both members of the NGO Katinnulong dagiti Umili ti Amianan-Regional Development Center (KADUAMI-RDC-Northern Luzon). Alikes, a CPA founding member, was arrested and detained in Baguio City in February on trumped-up charges of robbery and arson. She was released on bail. Mariano is a member of the health group Cordillera Health, Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera (CHESTCORE).
Villanueva is a convenor of Binnadang, a network of advocates in Metro Manila supporting Cordillera indigenous peoples’ issues and campaigns. Gepte is a staff of the joint secretariat of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) nominated section to the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl). Angiwot is a member of Innabuyog-Gabriela.
“We urgently appeal to the public in condemning the harassment of State security forces to the people, to communities and people’s organisations,” Bolinget said in a statement.