ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Update: AHRC-UAU-016-201

25 April 2014

[RE: AHRC-UAC-139-2013: PHILIPPINES : Overt surveillance on a religious group assisting farmers in Mindanao ]
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PHILIPPINES : Renewed overt surveillance of two staff members of a religious group in Mindanao

ISSUES: Threats and intimidation; human rights defenders;
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Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes with deep concern regarding the renewed overt surveillance on the staff of a religious group assisting poor farmers in Mindanao . One had been followed by an unknown man while the other had been receiving SMS messages from an unknown sender accusing him of being a supporter of a rebel group.

UPDATED INFORMATION: (Based on the documentation by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR))

In our appeal issued in November 4, 2013 (AHRC-UAC-139-2013) we reported that overt surveillance was carried out on Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod, sub-regional coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) in northern Mindanao . Sr. Famita and some of their staff have since been under threat, which led to the arrest and dislocation of some of their staff from work.

On 7 March 2014 at 3pm, a renewed overt surveillance was carried out on some of the staff of the RMP. This time it was aimed at Jonah Cossma Jumagbas, the organization’s alternate coordinator. She was followed by an unidentified man as she left the RMP’s sub-regional office in Villaverde, Iligan City .

Jumagbas suspected that a man, in his mid-30s, have been following her when she was at the Palao Market intending to buy some fruit. Trying to avoid the man, Jumagbas hurriedly walked along Quezon Avenue , then Aguinaldo Avenue , and then back to the market where she came from to lose him. But the man who was following her pursued, maintaining a 10-15 meter distance.

To mislead the man, Jumagbas took a jeepney ride going to Tambo Bus Terminal and then boarded a bus bound for Cagayan de Oro City. But while she was waiting for the bus to depart, Jonah saw that the same man was also at the bus terminal. He appeared to be looking for someone. Upon seeing him, Jumagbas stepped out of the bus and hurriedly took a jeepney back to the city to find a safer place.

Before the Jumagbas’s incident, Tenioso Balangiao Jr., a member of the Sub-Regional Coordinating Body of RMP-NMR, has also received a suspicious text message (SMS) from an unknown phone number on February 20, 2014. In the SMS, Balangiao was told the sender he knew where he lives and also knows he fears for his security due to his work. The unknown sender also tried to reassure Balangiao that he must not worry for his life because he can protect him and his family.

This incident prompted Balangiao to change his mobile phone number. But despite changing his mobile phone, Balangiao continued to receive text messages from the same unidentified number. The message said:

“Ayaw pagpuli sim Jun kay makabalo gyapon kosa imo namber…” (Don’t change your SIM card for I can still know your number…)

With this, Balangiao engaged the sender in series of exchange of messages. The sender identified himself as ‘John Meraflor’. He claimed to have good intentions and wants to make his acquaintance. Since then, this person “John Meraflor” has been sending text messages to him telling him that he knows what he was doing.

Later, this person “John Meraflor” started accusing him of being a supporter of the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines/New Peoples’ Army). The person also tried to implicate Balangiao of supposedly planning to join the rebel group.

As a peasant community organizer of RMP-NMR, Balangiao works closely with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Philippine Peasant Movement) in order to bring RMP’s projects into far-flung peasant communities. After the incident, he no longer feels secure and safe in doing his work; and this has prompted him to keep away from his home and his work.

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-UAU-016-2014

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ……………..,

PHILIPPINES: Renewed overt surveillance two other staffs of a religious group in Mindanao

CASE 1
Name of the victim: Jonah Cossma Jumagbas, alternate coordinator of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR)
Alleged Perpetrators: Unidentified man in mid-30’s
Date and place of incident: On 7 March 2014
Place of incident: At the Palao Market in Iligan City

CASE 2
Name of the victim: Tenioso Balangiao Jr., member of the Sub-Regional Coordinating Body of RMP-NMR
Alleged Perpetrators: Unknown person sending SMS to his phone and has introduced himself as “John Meraflor”
Date of incident: On 20 February 2014
Place of incident: In Iligan City

I am writing to raise my serious concern on the overt surveillance and threats on Jonah Cossma Jumagbas and Tenioso Balangiao Jr. respectively. Jumagbas had been followed by unknown person; and Balangiao had been falsely accused by an unknown person who kept on sending SMS to his mobile as supporter of a rebel group.

On 7 March 2014 at 3pm, a renewed overt surveillance had been carried out on some of the staffs of the RMP. This time it was aimed at Jonah Cossma Jumagbas, the organization’s alternate coordinator. She had been followed by an unidentified man as she left the RMP’s sub-regional office in Villaverde, Iligan City .

Jumagbas suspected that a man, who is in his mid-30s, have been following her when she was at the Palao Market intending to buy some fruits. Trying to avoid the man, Jumagbas hurriedly walk along Quezon Avenue , then Aguinaldo Avenue , and then back to the market where she came from to lose him. But the man who was following him pursued, maintaining a 10-15 meter distance.

To mislead the man, Jumagbas took a jeepney ride going to Tambo Bus Terminal and then boarded a bus bound for Cagayan de Oro City. But while she was waiting for the bus to depart, Jonah saw that the same man was also at the bus terminal. He appears looking for someone. Upon seeing him, Jumagbas stepped out of the bus and hurriedly took a jeepney ride back to the city to find a safer place.

Before the Jumagbas’s incident, Tenioso Balangiao Jr., a member of the Sub-Regional Coordinating Body of RMP-NMR, has also received a suspicious text message (SMS) from an unknown phone number on February 20, 2014. In the SMS, Balangiao was told by the sender that he knew where he lives and also knows he fears for his security due to his work. The unknown sender also tried to reassure Balangiao that he must not worry for his life because he can protect him and his family.

This incident prompted Balangiao to change his mobile phone number. But despite changing his mobile phone, Balangiao continued to receive text messages from the same unidentified number. The message said:

“Ayaw pagpuli sim Jun kay makabalo gyapon kosa imo namber…” (Don’t change your SIM card for I can still know your number…)

With this, Balangiao engaged the sender in series of exchange of messages. The sender identified himself as ‘John Meraflor’. He claimed to have good intentions and wants to make his acquaintance. Since then, this person “John Meraflor” has been sending text messages to him telling him that he knows what he was doing.

Later, this person “John Meraflor” started accusing him of being a supporter of the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines/New Peoples’ Army). The person also tried to implicate Balangiao of supposedly planning to join the rebel group.

As a peasant community organizer of RMP-NMR, Balangiao works closely with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Philippine Peasant Movement) in order to bring RMP’s projects into far-flung peasant communities. After the incident, he no longer feels secure and safe in doing his work; and this has prompted him to keep away from his home and his work.

It is disappointing that these staffs that assist poor farmer are being targeted for overt surveillance and threats as a result of their work. I therefore urge you to conduct an effective investigation in order to identify and hold to account those responsible in conducting the surveillance.

Also, I urge you to ensure that adequate protection is provided to ensure the safety of the victims and their group promptly. It is disappointing that despite our earlier appeals and request to ensure the safety of staffs of this organization, this renewed overt surveillance on them demonstrates that nothing substantial has been done to prevent these incidents from reoccurring.

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
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

Thank you.

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

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