PHILIPPINES : Renewed pattern of targeted attacks on human rights and political activists
ISSUES: Threats; Human Rights Defenders; Extrajudicial Killings
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is deeply concerned that the pattern of targeted attacks on human rights and political activists, which was common in the past, has once again emerged. An activist had been killed, their relatives arrested over questionable, if not fabricated charges, and offices and colleagues robbed in a systematic manner targeting a particular group.
CASE DETAILS: (Based on information received from the Alliance for the Advancement of Peoples Rights (Karapatan))
Case 1: Activist’s parents detained, falsely charged after her laptop was stolen In December 19, 2012, we reported the filing of fabricated charges on Roy Velez, regional chairperson of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), and his colleague, Amelita Gamara, both urban poor leaders; and 30 others. (For details: AHRC-UAU-036-2012) The filing of charges on Gamara preceded the theft of laptop of her daughter, Nikki Gamara, inside her school campus at the University of the Philippines , Manila in March 7, 2012. Nikki, who is also the Anakbayan UP-Manila secretary general, was working on her thesis on her laptop at the office of the College of Arts and Sciences, when it was stolen after she went out for a short break. Strangely, hers was the only laptop taken out of four inside the office which indicates that robbery was not the motive. On April 3, 2012, Nikki’s father, Renante, and his colleague, Santiago Balleta, were arrested by the military and police in Las Piñas. Renante, now detained in the headquarters of the Philippine National Police, is the consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Case 2: Electronic documents stolen in a break in at political party’s office In the second incident, on June 13, 2012, an unidentified number of persons broke into the national headquarters of Gabriela Women’s Party in Tandang Sora, Quezon City . Two desktop computers, monitors and a laptop were also stolen. However, other appliances and valuables such as TV set, DVD player, photocopying machine, printers, among others, were not stolen which again indicates that robbery could not have been the motive.
The stolen computers contain files from GWP’s 13th National Women’s Council and National Convention held in May 26 to 28, 2012.
Case 3 & 4: Documents stolen at the lawyer’s house & also another office In the third incident, on September 22, 2012, unidentified persons also broke into the house of Atty. Rachel Pastores, legal consultant for the peace process between the Philippine Government and the NDFP. Pastores is also the Officer-in-Charge of the Public Interest Law Center, a law firm providing legal aid. Many of PILC’s clients include currently detained NDFP consultants, political activists and farmers. Stolen were two laptops and a video camera but no other valuable items were taken. In the fourth incident, on December 25, another break into occurred in the office of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD). Also stolen were a laptop and a camera.
Case 5 & 6: Overt surveillance on an office advocating rights of parents, children In the fifth incident, between December 11, 2012 and January 13, 2012, overt surveillances was carried out at the office of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC) in Project 3, Quezon City . On December 11, there were two men who came to their office. The persons were suspicious because they were not expecting any visitors on that day. One of them was described as average in height, wearing black t-shirt; the other one was heavier built and who wore an olive-green shirt. One of them tried to get in by repeatedly pushing the door bell while the other was on a look out. In the sixth incident, on January 13, 2013, at the office of the Parents’ Alternative for ECCD, Inc (PAI) and Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns in Project 3, Quezon City , they have noticed unidentified man loitering in front of the PAI/Salinlahi gate, watching people going out of the office while talking on his mobile phone. The same person was again seen two weeks after the incident, again observing the visitors entering and leaving the office.
Case 7 & 8: Consultant for a political party robbed; house of another broken into In the seventh incident, in February 9, 2013, Rosie Tumbagahon, an independent nominee of the NDF Nominated Section of the Joint Secretariat of the Joint Monitoring Committee, was robbed at gunpoint while onboard a public utility vehicle on her way home in Arranque Market in Manila. An unidentified man who was seated across from her pulled out a gun and shouted “Walang gagalaw!” (Don’t anybody move!). First, the man pointed the gun at the driver, but later it became clear that Rosie was his target. He rose from his seat, stuck the gun to Rosie’s forehead and grabbed her shoulder bag containing keys to the office of the NDFP Nominated Section, cellular phone, documents and papers, and USB flash drives. In the eighth incident, on the same night Rey Casambre, also a consultant of the NDFP and executive director of the Philippine Peace Center had his residence in Cavite broken into. Rey discovered the incident after returning home with his wife. Also stolen were their laptops, USB flash drive, some documents, and again no other valuables were taken.
Case 9: Office of NGOs broken into In the ninth incident, February 14 the shared apartment unit/office of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-NCR, Karapatan-NCR and Ugat-Lahi Artist Collective and Sining Bugkos in Cubao, Quezon City , was broken into. The Iron Gate and the door were opened. The padlock to the gate had been tampered with and the door was forced open. Stolen from the office were five mobile phone, two laptops, two portable hard drives, and a small box of jewelry, a USB flash drive, a FLIP video camera; a laptop charger adaptor and identity cards. Prior to the break-in, the staff members noted unidentified persons loitering just outside the apartment compound.
Case 10: Killing of an activist In the tenth incident, on March 4, at 6pm, Cristina Morales Jose was shot dead by gunmen riding on a motorcycle. She was the leader of Barug Katawhan (People, Rise Up!), an organization of survivors of typhoon Pablo on December 4, 2012 that affected over 6 million people. She was also the Barangay Kagawad (village council member) in Binondo, Baganga, Davao Oriental. Cristina was on her way to Davao City to file a complaint with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region XI Office about the blacklisting of villagers who had been affected by typhoon from receiving food rations. They were the ones who joined the protest at the DSWD Regional Office in Davao City on February 25 to 27 and in January 15 at the highway in Montevista, Compostela Valley . In Cristina’s SMS to her colleagues, the military and other Local Government Unit (LGU) members threatened not to give food rations to residents who joined the protest. The military attached to the 67th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, also allegedly threatened and intimidated them. For these reasons, the AHRC is deeply concerned by the resurgence of this pattern of systematic and targeted attacks against human rights and political activists. It calls on the Philippine government to conduct inquiries into these incidents. We know very well that these incidents, as has happened in the past, are mostly the planned targeting of a particular human rights and political activists as a result of their work. The AHRC will be writing a letter to the Philippine government and to the UN agencies, particularly the Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; on the situation of human rights defenders, for their appropriate intervention. Urgent Appeals Programme Asian Human Rights Commission (email@example.com)
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