CAUSE-ORIENTED groups have initiated a fact-finding mission and launched efforts to free two human rights defenders from Cagayan de Oro City who were "forcibly" brought by a government soldier for questioning to a military camp in Bukidnon.
The Gabriela Women's Party and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR) both condemned the incident and demanded the immediate release of Gloria Jandayan and her daughter Gleceria Balangiao.
Jandayan is a member of Gabriela and, at the same time, a barangay health worker in Barangay Macabalan while Balangiao is a lay worker of RMP-NMR as secretary of Panday Bulig, a provincial chapter of the Citizens Disaster Response Center (CDRC).
The mother and daughter were brought by a certain Captain Lorefel Judaya, an intelligence officer of the army's 1st Special Forces Battalion for questioning and verification over their alleged links with the New People's Army (NPA) at a military camp in Manolo Fortich Bukidnon, last Monday.
"We vehemently condemn this abduction and illegal detention of Gloria Jandayan and Gleceria Balangiao which adds to the long list of cases of human rights violations against Gabriela Women's Party and Makabayan volunteers on the eve of electoral campaign period and amid heightened attacks against human rights defenders," Gabriela said.
Human rights group Karapatan-Northern Mindanao earlier said the military and the barangay officials have reached an agreement that the two be released within 24 hours, after the investigation.
But, Karapatan-NMR spokesperson Father Allan Khen Apus said the two have yet to return home as of Wednesday, February 13.
Meanwhile, the RMP-NMR said another worker has received threats through text messages the day after Jandayan and Balangiao were brought by the military.
The group declined to identify their staff for security reasons who received malicious text messages from an unknown number. The messages, all in Filipino, were translated as follows:
"Tagalog, one of your colleagues has been arrested, aren't you going to respond,"
"Why did you even go to Mindanao? You are Tagalog and should not have meddled here. You are quick to make enemies."
"Tagalog, if you want to join the media, just don't do it with the NPA."
The group has called on the faithful to lend their support in calling out these types of harassment and intimidation against human rights defenders.
"RMP-NMR, true to its message of love that is real and active, has lent its voice in calling out abuses against the rural poor. It has joined hands with the farmers, the indigenous communities, the academe, religious formations, and other sectors of society in promoting human rights and the fulfillment of human dignity through its various programs and services," the group said.
"And it will continue to do so despite repeated attacks against it by those threatened with the unified voices of the oppressed," it added.