By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) expressed their concern over the harassment of their staff by men who introduced themselves as “people from the government.”
CTUHR, an institution established to defend trade unionists and workers from human rights violations, said that on October 9, one of their staff, Giebdhart “Nico” Canave, 38, was abducted, threatened, and interrogated by unidentified men.
In a statement, CTUHR said that Canave was on his way to photograph a baptism in Dasmariñas, Cavite as he was hired by a certain Carl, who recently rented a room in his house. He was accompanied by Carl and a certain Kiko, a childhood friend of Carl. Stopping over at a gas station along the expressway, he was sandwiched and accosted by two unidentified men, who then subjected him to a series of accusations, threats and questions.
The group told Canave that he has been under surveillance for months, revealing to him his whereabouts and that of his family and then adding that he “should have been dead a long time ago.”
CTUHR related that Canave was then bombarded with a series of questions like “when did he become an activist, who recruited him, what educational discussions he has taken, what he does at work, who are his workmates, etc.” He was then shown pictures and names, forcing him to identify the people in the picture while asking him if he worked with them.
They also accused Canave of being involved with an “armed group’s activities” of which Canave strongly denied, asserting that he works as a researcher at CTUHR while finishing his post graduate degree.
He was then given an envelope filled with cash and was told to cooperate with them and not to tell anyone about the incident.
This episode traumatized Canave who said, “I feared for my life and for my family. They were forcing me to cooperate with them, to report my activities and the people I meet and work with. Due to fear, I simply agreed. But where do I help them? For the contentious attacks against people like me promoting and advocating human rights?”
The CTUHR said they are “highly alarmed by this threat as the human rights situation in the country continues to deteriorate and lives of human rights defenders are put at risk.”
The group added that under President Duterte, 56 labor rights defenders were already killed and no one was brought to justice.
“It is enraging that the state invests so much time and funds to these kinds of activities while workers and the people continue to suffer the impacts of the pandemic and the consequences of poor pandemic response,” said CTUHR Executive Director Daisy Arago.
Last Friday, Oct. 22, Canave with his colleagues at the CTUHR filed a formal complaint at the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the case.
“Human rights defenders do not deserve this kind of harassment and threats. We have enough problems to contend with and threats are totally inhumane. We appeal for CHR intervention to look into this case, so it won’t happen to any HR [human rights] worker,” said Arago. (RTS, RVO)