“She dedicated her life to helping and serving women who are victims of abuse. She also actively led in the 80’s the cases of women victims of sex trafficking. She became active in campaigns against giant mining companies, and ran for council in her hometown in Mindanao.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – A 76-year old longtime women’s rights activist was arrested by elements of the Regional Intelligence Division in Butuan City on Tuesday, Aug. 30.
Atheliana “Atel” Hijos, is the secretary general of Gabriela-Caraga.
An alert released by Karapatan-Caraga chapter said that the police arrested Hijos over charges of murder, kidnapping and serious illegal detention. Warrants of arrest were issued by the Regional trial Court Branch 43, Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte dated June 10, 2020 and by RTC Branch 7, Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur dated February 12, 2020 with no bail bond.
Women’s group Gabriela said there is no other reason for her arrest other than her being their leader for decades.
“She is one of the pillars of the women’s movement in Mindanao,” the group said in a statement.
“She dedicated her life to helping and serving women who are victims of abuse. She also actively led in the 80’s the cases of women victims of sex trafficking. She became active in campaigns against giant mining companies, and ran for council in her hometown in Mindanao,” they added.
Hijos is also a former public school teacher and was the founding member of Women’s Alliance for True Change (WATCH)-Mindanao – a broad-based movement of women who resisted the Marcos dictatorship.
According to human rights groups Karapatan, Hijos has pulmonary tuberculosis and hypertension. She recently suffered from a mild stroke.
“She has been bedridden, and she has difficulties walking, at times using a wheelchair. How can an elderly and elderly woman, with such a frail build like Atel’s, possibly commit all the crimes alleged against her?” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan in a statement.
Palabay said the arrest of Hijos is based on fabricated testimonies of soldiers who accused her as a combatant and was involved in armed encounters.
Palabay said “this is a blatant lie considering Atel’s senior age and frail physical condition.”
“In one of the charges leveled against her, she has submitted sound and reasonable proof that she was attending election-related activities at the time of the alleged incident of armed encounter between soldiers and New People’s Army rebels. Like all those who were arrested, Hijos has been subjected to red-tagging, via numerous posters and fliers bearing her name and picture disseminated by the military in public places in Caraga,” Palabay said.
Karapatan has recorded, as of July this year, 92 political prisoners in the Caraga region, 22 of them are women.
They expressed their concern over the cases filed in court saying that “the region has become a warrant factory where trumped up charges against activists are cooked up to suppress their voices and stifle political dissent.”
The group noted activists who have cases and similar charges filed in the courts of Cagara such as Mindanao-based activists and development workers such as Dr. Naty Castro, human rights worker Renalyn Tejero and Teresita Naul, women’s rights activists Nerita de Castro, teacher Gary Campos, development workers Julieta Gomez and Niezel Velasco, peasant activists Virgilio Lincuna and Marcela Diaz, church worker Aldeem Yanez, indigenous rights activist Gloria Campos Tumalon, among others.
Karapatan also said that Luzon-based trade unionists Juan Alexander Reyes, Rowena Rosales, Maoj Maga, and Antonieta Dizon, and development workers Benito Quilloy and Rita Espinoza were likewise implicated in trumped up charges filed in courts in Caraga, despite the fact that these individuals have never been to Mindanao.
“The successive arrests of long-time women’s rights activists Atel Hijos and Adora Faye de Vera, both have fought the Marcos dictatorship, show the government’s contempt for brave Filipinas who struggle against political repression,” Palabay said.
The group demanded the immediate release of Hijos and De Vera and all political prisoners on humanitarian and just grounds.