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.
Reference: Rupert Estanislao, chair
Close to 70 members of the National Humanitarian and Fact Finding Mission (NHFFM) were left stranded on the night of April 20th in Baganga, Davao Oriental after two-days of military harassment by the 67th Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The NHFFM, which includes human rights organizers, nuns, union leaders, and church workers, was in the region to provide humanitarian assistance due to the ravages of typhoon Pablo and to also investigate human rights violations by the AFP and the killing of Christina Jose, a local leader of Barug Katawhan.
“We, the members of the San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (SF CHRP) stand fully behind the humanitarian and human rights workers being harassed and intimidated by these AFP thugs,” said SF CHRP chair Rupert Estanislao. “The 67th IB has been harassing the NHFFM since April 18th by trying to impede their progress by digging holes into the roads and placing logs as obstacles, setting up military roadblocks, intimidating the bus drivers, and th npreventing them from leaving Baganga over the weekend.”
Despite evidence provided by the organizers, church workers, nuns, union leaders, and journalists on the ground the spokesperson for the 67th IB, Lt. Col. Krishnamurti Mortela, denied that there was any harassment of the humanitarian and human rights workers and that they were dismayed over the fact that they were holding an independent investigation of Jose’s murder instead of cooperating with the military and local authorities.
“The intransigence and bravado of Mortela is out of this world,” exclaimed Estanislao. “He either has completely lost his mind or is spinning a web of lies that is enveloping himself. In no way has the military helped in the investigation for the NHFFM especially when they themselves are the main culprits in these violations and when they are the main suspects in the assassination of Christina Jose. They have done everything in their power to keep this humanitarian and fact-finding mission from happening.”
“Also, to suggest that the NHFFM cooperate with the perpetrators of human rights violations is ludicrous,” continued Estanislao. “Of course they would have a separate independent investigation into the spate of killings and human rights violations that have been going on recently since that will be the best way in finding the truth. Any investigation by the police or military would become a complete whitewash.”
SF CHRP is saddened and angered by the harassment perpetrated by the 67th IB and asks for the AFP in Mindanao to cease and desist with its harassment of humanitarian workers and human rights investigators in their region. SF CHRP is also calling on the 67th IB to stop harassing community organizers and human rights workers especially when it comes to the insidious practice of “red-tagging” by labeling any critic of the military or government as a rebel in the New People’s Army.