6 June 2011
Reference: Cristina Palabay, Tanggol Bayi Spokesperson (0917-5003879)
WOMEN’S RIGHTS GROUP DENOUNCE PERSECUTION AND HARASSMENT OF SOUTHERN TAGALOG ACTIVISTS
Tanggol Bayi, an association of women human rights defenders, today denounced renewed efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the persecution and harassment of human rights defenders in Southern Tagalog known as Southern Tagalog 72, by the refilling murder and multiple murder charges against them before the Provincial Prosecutor in San Pablo, Laguna this May 2011.
Cristina Palabay, convenor of Tanggol Bayi, said the murder and multiple frustrated murder charges filed in 2007 against the seventy two leaders who allegedly participated and connived with the New People’s Army in an ambuscade in Mindoro Island have been twice dismissed in Mindoro and Rizal courts.
“This is a clear sign of continued harassment and persecution of leaders of legitimate people’s organizations in Southern Tagalog who have consistently upheld the rights of the people against corporate mining, militarization and other anti-people policies, under the administration of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and up to the present dispensation. After nearly a year of the Aquino government, there has been no departure from the policy and practice of filing trumped up charges against human rights defenders who articulate the rights and interests of the people,” Palabay commented.
Among those who were charged were women human rights defenders Doris Cuario, Karapatan Southern Tagalog regional coordinator; Helen Asdolo, secretary general of Gabriela Women’s Party-Southern Tagalog; and Amelita Sto. Tomas, coordinator of Gabriela in Cavite.
Palabay said this is an indication that Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan, his national security program, and Oplan Bantay Laya, the counter-insurgency program of Arroyo, have no essential differences in unleashing military terror and in undertaking legal persecution of leaders and members of legitimate people’s organizations.
“The military and government rhetoric on human rights are mere smokescreen for increased rights violations during military operations and legal offensives against human rights defenders,” she concluded.###