MILITANT groups on Tuesday, November 28, said they have recorded a spike in the number of threats, harassment, intimidation against activists as well as in the number of cases being filed by state security forces against members of "progressive" groups.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) spokesperson Wildon Barros said many of their members are now under surveillance by different intelligence groups of the government.
Barros said he sees the crackdown order as "serving the interests of oligarchs, big companies, and imperialist countries."
Along with hunting down for activists, Barros said the crackdown will also railroad the possible expansion and extension of the martial law declaration, intensifying militarization in the countryside.
Kristine Cabardo, regional chairperson of the League of Filipino Students (LFS) in Northern Mindanao, said members of LFS have also been receiving texts and calls from unknown numbers.
"Red-tagging has become prevalent, just because we are supporting legitimate cause such as free education for all. There's nothing illegal about making our voices heard and calling on the government to provide action to issues," she said.
After President Rodrigo Duterte's statement ordering the arrests of activist groups which he accused are "legal fronts" of the New People's Army (NPA), Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of Kalumbay-lumad organization said, there have been rise of trumped up charges filed against lumads.
Goaynon said he recorded a total of 70 trumped-up charges filed against Indigenous Peoples in different lumad communities in Bukidnon.
Goaynon pointed out that the absence of pro-people organizations would pave the way for multinational corporations to grab their ancestral lands.
"There is plan for the extension of a 1.2 hectare oil palm plantation in Mindanao, and there is no other target for this expansion to be completed but the ancestral domain of lumads," he said.
He also disclosed that many lumads are now in hiding, scared that authorities might arrest them. Just like what happened to Joseph Paborada, a member of Pangalasag-Kalumbay lumad organization.
He said, last October 14, his house was visited by Lieutenant Colonel Francis Carandang, commanding officer of the 58th Infantry Battalion, and was personally asked to surrender.
"I was asked to surrender because they said, I am a supporter of the NPA. In my area, farmers are tagged as NPA, They now call us farmers many names. But I refused to surrender because I am not an NPA supporter," he said.
Barros said, progressive groups remain unfazed despite the threats, announcing even that a big rally will be conducted on December 10, in celebration of the International Human Rights Day.
"We are working within the bounds of law, we are registered. And besides, the courts are still open, it is now the burden of police and military on how they will gather evidences to prove that we are members of the NPA," Barros said.
For his part, Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, Army's 4th Infantry Division (4ID) spokesperson said, surveillance should not be feared, especially if the person has clean track record.
"Maybe what they really fear is the former members of the NPA, their former companions, that can actually testify against them. For me, it is not the government forces that they should fear but these former rebels who could prove they are indeed NPAs and hold them accountable," Martinez said.
Martinez also assured the public that the military and police are also doing their mandate "within the bounds of law", and guaranteed the public that any possible arrest have corresponding legal documents.
"We won't just pick up people anytime we want, we have legal documents we can present. Hindi basta-basta pumunta ka lang sa kung kaninong bahay without any valid reason, that is not what we do," Martinez said.
Martinez instead advised the activists to report to proper authorities these alleged harassment and threats so that these can be properly addressed and investigated.
"We don't know maybe, these persons have personal issues against them. It is unfair to immediately point the finger to us. We only do surveillance if you have a case, but to survey just about anyone, that is not in our nature," he added.
Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on November 29, 2017.