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Northern Luzon regions rally together for judicial and legislative reforms to address HRVs

Cordillera Peoples Alliance
Public Information Commission
PRESS RELEASE: Northern Luzon regions rally together for judicial and legislative reforms to address HRVs

From March 20-21, 2023, Indigenous and human rights groups from North Luzon are engaging the Commission on Human Rights in a dialogue and are lobbying the House of Representatives to give attention and urgent response to the many and intensifying human rights violations in the Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Ilocos regions. Highlighting the recent bombing of communities by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in North Luzon, the groups are urging the Congress to issue a resolution for an independent and impartial investigating on these spate of human rights violations and state attacks ranging from terrorist labelling of peoples’ organizations and leaders, disinformation or redtagging forums in schools in the Cordillera, and indiscriminate bombing of hinterland communities in the framework of anti-insurgency operations by the state armed forces.
The North Under Attack
According to Casselle Ton, spokesperson of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), “We have a record of numerous human rights violations reported from communities since the past administration that remains unresolved, at worst archived, and these incidents are still continuing under the government of Marcos Jr..”
North Luzon communities share similar experiences of these attacks on peoples’ civil and political rights. They are brought together by a trumped-up charge of rebellion or insurrection, wherein the accused are members and leaders of organizations from the three regions in Northern Luzon, they are hence dubbed as the North Luzon seven or NL7.
Ton also quoted other incidents of human rights violations mostly perpetrated by state agents.These take the forms of disinformation in schools , terrorist labellings of organizations and their leaders, judicial harassment through filing of trumped-up charges, and the heedless conduct of military operations that employ indiscriminate aerial bombings, as observed in the Cagayan and Cordillera communities.
The most recent case of which was recorded in March 5, 2023 in Gawaan, Kalinga. The bombing lasted for about two weeks which heavily disrupted the economic activities of the people in the community. It has also disturbed the democratic process of consensus building among the communities threatened by the proposed Saltan dams project. The people of Gawaan and nearby affected communities stand at a disadvantage both economically and politically. While their homes and ancestral lands are threatened by large energy dams, they also risk the chances of being labelled a terrorist or enemies of the state if they oppose these destructive energy projects in defense of their ancestral domain. The heavy presence of military forces in communities only serves in the interest of dam companies.
The aerial bombings and strafing in Baggao, Cagayan last January 29, 2023 forced families from their homes and deprived them of access to food, properties and livelihood. Similar incidents were recorded in 2021 and 2022 in Sta. Catalina and Gonzaga, Cagayan, respectively, based on a statement released by the Danggayan Daguiti Mannalon ti Cagayan Valley last February 8, 2023.
These results also entail violations of human rights and international policies on the conduct of war. However, the local government units are yet to issue their official statements regarding these incidents.
The North Demands
The military operations are proof of the raging civil war in the Philippine countryside between the AFP and the New Peoples’ Army. The decades-long civil war caused by the economic and political crises will not be addressed merely through excessive military operations and counter-insurgency programs that now reached the point where civilians and armed combatants are undifferentiated.
Under the Marcos Jr. administration, proposed military combat training operations with the US military forces through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in Northern Luzon will only aggravate the human rights situation. Worse, the proposed Charter Change will impose a total sell-out and plunder of our natural resources. It is expected that investment defense forces will also be deployed in Northern Luzon communities who are known to reside in commonly targeted areas for mining and energy projects. Clearly, the prospect is grim.
We demand that the concerned government agencies look into these incidents of human rights violations. The cases filed since the administration of Rodrigo Duterte, combined with those from the current administration must be scrutinized and the perpetrators held accountable. These matters of land, life, and resources are urgent issues that should be addressed first by the government of Marcos Jr. ###
For reference: Renz Cuyop Cordillera Peoples Alliance pic@cpaphils.org09393268164