SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
In an article for Bulatlat Anne Marxze D. Umil covers the “People’s March” from Southern Tagalog all the way to the nation’s capital:
They traveled 176 kilometers from Lucena city, south of Luzon island, to Mendiola in Manila. Notwithstanding the scorching heat of the sun, close to a thousand people from the Southern Tagalog region marched their way to Mendiola to fight for their human rights. They carried banners calling for justice for victims of human rights violations and the pull out of military troops from the Bondoc Peninsula.
Vella Evangelista, 60, from Tanauan, Quezon, braved the long march despite her old age. Her son Ramon, 27, has been in hiding because of trumped up charges that were filed against him. “He’s just a farmer working for his family. Just because he is a member of the farmers’ organization, soldiers are accusing him of being an NPA member. He hasn’t done anything wrong,” Evangelista told Bulatlat.com.
The Lakbayan ng Mamamayan or the People’s March for Human Rights is held annually by the people of Southern Tagalog. The long march is led by the human rights group Karapatan-Southern Tagalog and was joined the by supporters, cause-oriented groups, church workers and the victims themselves.
Glen Malabanan, secretary general of Karapatan-ST said President Benigno S. Aquino III’s peace and development program meant massive deployment of military troops in the region. She said families are forced to leave their houses because of military intimidation, making their already hard life more difficult. She added that at present, eight combat battalions of the Philippine Army are deployed in Bondoc Peninsula plus another six battalions of combined police and military forces.
The group has documented 216 victims of different forms of human rights violations in the area. Forty of them are women and 26 are children or minors while cases of threats and harassment already numbered to about 2,000. The use and encampment of security forces in homes and public places already affected at least 3,000 residents.
Militarization has disrupted their normal lives. Evenagelista said, soldiers are harassing and intimidating farmers who are caught working in their farms, accusing them of being members of the NPA. Her son Nicasio, 29, was also subjected to harassment. He was accused of being an NPA. “But he is a farmer. The soldiers only found him carrying tingkalan, (a tool used for harvesting) they accused him of being an NPA. He was even interrogated in the camp.”
Mylene Zantua, 32, mother of five children could not go home because the military filed trumped up charges against her last Nov. 12. She is the current secretary of the Save Bondoc Peninsula Movement, a member of the Coco Levy Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM) and Pinagkaisang Lakas ng mga Magsasaka (Piglas)-Quezon.
Because Zantua has been an active leader of farmers in San Francisco, Quezon, she was subjected to harassment and intimidation. She is being accused of being a recruiter for the New People’s Army. In one incident sometime in October, soldiers tried to arrest her and bring her to the camp. “Twelve soldiers tried to arrest me without a warrant of arrest. Their arms pointed at me. But there were many people in the barangay hall so they just detained me in my house.”
Speaking in the rally, Zantua said Aquino has no respect for human rights. “If he respects human rights, why did he deploy battalions of soldiers in Bondoc Peninsula?” She called on the administration of Aquino to pull out the military from Bondoc Peninsula.
Meanwhile, Malabanan said that despite the attacks on their rights, they would still continue the struggle for justice. “Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya I and II failed. We will once again call for a stop to Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan,” Malabanan said in commemoration of international human rights in Mendiola on Dec. 10, Monday.
She added that despite the massive violations of their rights, they were still able to join the march to Mendiola. “Even if many of our members are being illegally arrested, disappeared and killed, we will not be cowed; we will stand for our rights.”