ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-139-2013

4 November 2013
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PHILIPPINES : Overt surveillance on a religious group assisting farmers in Mindanao
ISSUES: Threats and intimidation; human rights defender
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Dear Friends,
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you about the overt surveillance being carried out on a nun and her group in Iligan City . The victim’s group actively works for human rights for the rural poor in Northern Mindanao . Some of their staff were also came under threat this year which led to their arrest and dislocation from work.
CASE DETAILS: (Based on the documentation by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Northern Mindanao (RMP-NMR))
On 30 September 2013, Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod, Sub-Regional Coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Northern Mindanao (RMP-NMR), was visited by a certain ‘Francis’ at her office who introduced himself as a staff member of Australian Aid or AusAID.
‘Francis’ discussed about the ‘work’ of AusAID, and Sr. Somogod and two of her staff told him about their work and the current areas in which they are doing interventions.
According to Sister Famita, she was suspicious and did not entertain ‘Francis.’ She wondered why a donor agency, without following any protocol, would come into our office without informing anyone of his visit?
RMP-NMR immediately wrote to AusAID to verified Francis’ credentials.
On 7 October 2013, Rebecca Ongtangco, Head of Finance and Risk Manager of AusAID Philippines said, “Please be informed that AusAID does not have any employee named ‘Francis’ or anyone who was authorized to contact RMP-NMR office.”
“Rest assured that we shall investigate this matter by contacting our Mindanao-based implementing partners who may be able to shed light on this concern,” added Ongtangco in her e-mail reply.
In another email sent to RMP-NMR, Ongtangco said their verification with their Mindanao based implementing partners on whether or not any of their staff contacted the RMP- NMR office on 30 September 2013 resulted in a negative response.
The latest incident strengthened RMP-NMR’s belief that they are being targeted because of their human rights work for the rural poor.
In February 2013, Kenneth Flloyd Navarro, Projects Officer of RMP-NMR was tailed on several occasions. He feared for his life, and went into hiding. He has been dislocated from his work, and has yet to resurface.
Long-time RMP-NMR lay co-worker Joel Q. Yagao, was filed with murder charges, and was arrested on 9 September 2013. Yagao has been responsible for sound agrarian campaigns in Misamis Oriental. He is now being detained at the Gingoog City jail.
Sr. Famita said their group believes that the state security forces are carrying out this surveillance and harassment in order to hinder them from going to rural areas and reporting about the degenerating human rights situation of the village folk brought by militarization.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
The government should conduct investigations and take action in the recent cases of threats on human rights defenders. There is also the case of Rodel Bonghanoy, a volunteer of United Farmers of Davao del Sur (Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Davao del Sur (NAMADDS)). Threaten by elements of the Philippine Army, he and his family were forced to leave their home out of fear. For details please see: AHRC-UAC-129-2013.
The case of Pastor June Ver Mangao. The Philippine National Police chief admitted that military agents were verifying the pastor’s “connections with leftist groups”. Pastor Mangao was transferred to a safe location. For details please see: AHRC-UAC-128-2013.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the concerned authorities listed below expressing your concern about this case.
The AHRC is also writing a separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
To support this appeal, please click here: http://www.urgentappeals.net/support.php?ua=AHRC-UAC-139-2013

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ………………..,
PHILIPPINES: Overt surveillance on a religious group assisting farmers in Mindanao
Name of the victim: Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod, Sub-Regional Coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Northern Mindanao (RMP-NMR).
Alleged Perpetrators: a certain ‘Francis’ that is believed to be a intelligence agent.
Date of incident: 30 September 2013
Place of incident: Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Northern Mindanao (RMP-NMR) office, Iligan City .

I am writing to raise my grave concern regarding the case of Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod. On 30 September 2013, Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod , Sub-Regional Coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in Northern Mindanao (RMP-NMR), were visited by a certain ‘Francis’ into their office and introduced himself as a personnel from the Australian Aid or AusAID.
‘Francis’ discussed about the ‘work’ of AusAID, and Sr. Somogod and two of her staff about their works and the current areas they are doing interventions.
According to Sister Famita, in suspicion, they did not entertain ‘Francis.’ How come a donor agency, without following any protocol, suddenly came into our office without informing us even a day before?
RMP-NMR immediately wrote to AusAID to verified Francis’ credentials.
I have learned that on 7 October 2013, Rebecca Ongtangco, Head of Finance and Risk Manager of AusAID Philippines said, “Please be informed that AusAID does not have any employee named ‘Francis’ or anyone who was authorized to contact RMP-NMR office.”
“Rest assured that we shall investigate this matter by contacting our Mindanao-based implementing partners who may be able to shed light on this concern,” added Ongtangco in her e-mail reply.
In another email sent to RMP-NMR, Ongtangco said their verification with their Mindanao based implementing partners on whether or not any of their staff contacted the RMP- NMR office on 30 September 2013 resulted into negative responses.
The latest incident strengthened RMP-NMR’s believes that they are being targeted because of their human rights work for the rural poor.
In February 2013, Kenneth Flloyd Navarro, Projects Officer of RMP-NMR was tailed on several occasions. He feared for his life, and went into hiding. He has been dislocated from his work, and has yet to resurface.
Long-time RMP-NMR lay co-worker Joel Q. Yagao, was filed with murder charges, and was arrested on 9 September 2013. Yagao has been responsible for sound agrarian campaigns in Misamis Oriental. He is now being detained at the Gingoog City jail.
Sr. Famita said their group believes that the state security forces are carrying out this surveillance and harassment in order to hinder them from going to rural areas and reporting about the degenerating human rights situation of the village folk brought by militarization.
I urge you to conduct an effective investigation in order to identify and hold to account those responsible in conducting the surveillance on Sr. Famita Somogod. Also, ensure the safety of the victim and her group. They must be afforded with adequate security and protection promptly. It is disappointing that despite previous similar incidents, there has not been any progress to ensure their protection and safety.
I trust that you will take appropriate action in this.
Yours sincerely,
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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Mr. Benigno Aquino III
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80

2. Ms. Loretta Ann Rosales
Chairperson
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
E-mail: chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com

3. Police Director Alan LM Purisima
Chief, Philippine National Police
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax +632 7248763
Email: feedback@pnp.gov.ph

4. Ms. Leila de Lima
Secretary
Department of Justice (DOJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
E-mail: soj@doj.gov.ph

5. Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista
Chief of Staff
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
AFP-GHQ Offices, Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 911 6436

Thank you.
Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ua@ahrc.asia)
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