Women human rights defenders condemn AFP for harassment

BAGUIO CITY – Cordillera women human rights defenders condemned the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for constantly harassing staff of various cause-oriented non-government organizations (NGOs) in the region.
In a press statement, Innabuyog claimed the 7th Infantry Division (ID) of the AFP Northern Luzon Command recently launched waves of attacks against them and other NGOs in the region.
According to the group, in the past three months, political persecution endangered the lives and security of five women human rights defenders and development workers. The 81st Infantry Batallion of Philippine Army (IBPA) and the 71st Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC) filed trumped up charges against them since July 2017.
Development workers and human rights defenders Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Sherry Mae Soledad, Joanne Villanueva, Asia Isabella Gepte, Rachel Mariano and 13 others are part of the charge sheet. The trumped up charges include the purported gun-firing incident involving the New People’s Army (NPA) that transpired in a community in Ilocos Sur.
In a joint statement, all accused denied the accusation and stated that they belonged to a legitimate organization.
Alikes and Soledad are both with the Katinnulong daguiti Umili ti Amianan-Regional Development Center (Kaduami-RDC), a non-government organization rendering social services in remote communities. While Villanueva works with the Cordillera Women’s Education, Action, Research Center (CWEARC).
Gepte is from the Binnadang, a network of advocates supporting Cordillera indigenous peoples, and a staff of the joint secretariat of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) nominated section to the Joint Monitoring Committee on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
Mariano is the health and program desk coordinator of the Community Health Education Services in the Cordillera Regions (Chestcore).
In a separate statement, Mariano said, “As a development worker we sacrificed a lot, specially our family. We also embraced the act of helping the poor yet we are being harassed by the estate security forces which are supposed to be our partners.”
“We condemn this harassment against us and we demand for a stop to persecution of women human rights defenders and political activist by the Philippine estate and its security forces. We are only serving the marginalized people in communities neglected by the government,” Mariano said. DIONISIO DENNIS JR. / ABN

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