Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) condemns the harassment perpetrated by military elements against its member in the Philippines, Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC), and ally Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).
According to a report posted by CPA on social media on October 28 (see here), staff of both organizations were held in consecutive checkpoints while traveling back to Baguio City after attending a partners’ meeting in Quirino, Ilocos Sur Province in Northern Philippines.
“CPA and CDPC were on the way home to Baguio after a community meeting in Quirino with Save Quirino Movement (SQM) people’s organisation. SQM is a local partner of the CPA and CDPC. From the checkpoint in Tirad Pass, they were brought to the PNP outpost in San Emilio where they were illegally held and without reason for an hour, upon the directive of Police Supt. Gabriel Alessandro Labador and Senior Police Officer Tolosa. After sometime, with assertion from CPA and CDPC, they were released, only to be flagged down again in more PNP checkpoints in Lidlidda and Banayoyo.”
CPA and CDPC believe that they were harassed and intimidated because of their meeting and activities with Save Quirino Movement (SQM), which conducts campaigns and advocacy against mining and human rights violations in Quirino, Ilocos Sur. According to CPA, the 81st Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines based in the region has been severely harassing and red-tagging the SQM.
According to Ms. Marvin Canyas, project officer of CDPC:
“We came from Patungcaleo, Quirino, Ilocos Sur after a community meeting where the human rights violations of the notorious 81st IB were condemned. The people overturned a resolution that attacked the SQM and CPA, and red-tagged them as fronts of the New Peoples Army. The 81st IB previously forced the barangay council to pass this resolution. The 81st IB has been encamped inside the barangay hall in Patungcaleo for almost two months, sowing terror in the community.”
Intimidation and harassment are part of the standard operations of military and paramilitary elements in dealing with communities and movements opposing so-called development projects such as corporate mining, big dams, plantations, proliferating in Asia Pacific as a result of trade and investment agreements. In the ASEAN region for example, member states are obliged to provide security and protection forces for investments. Such investment defense forces have already been deployed in the different parts of the Philippines where extractive projects are located or planned.
APRN joins the call for pulling out of military troops from communities and stopping of all forms of harassment and intimidation against communities and people’s organizations opposing development aggression.###