Document tags lawyers, priests, and journalist as ‘rebels’

A DOCUMENT containing a list of names of rights defenders, including lawyers, priests and a local journalist alleging them as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines was presented in a press conference called by human rights group Karapatan on Friday, February 22.

Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said around 10:30 a.m., while in a gathering at a hotel in Cagayan de Oro City, an unidentified person approached the hotel’s security guard and handed him two brown envelopes.

Each envelope contained 13 copies of flyers listing organizations of youth and teachers, tagging names of church workers, lawyers, rights advocates, and a journalist and his family, as “terrorist members and are responsible for recruiting residents in the city to join the NPA.”

Karapatan deplored the release of this “military hitlist” as yet another case of harassment against human rights defenders in Northern Mindanao, Palabay said.

Among the names listed were Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Felixberto Calang, Fr. Rolando Abejo of Movement Against Tyranny-Northern Mindanao, Karapatan Northern Mindanao spokesperson Fr. Khen Apus, human rights lawyers Beverly Musni, Czarina Musni and Beverly Ann Musni, and journalist Cong Corrales and his family.

Palabay likened the list to the government drug list and terrorist list.

“All these lists resulted to dire violations on human rights and civil liberties ng mga tao. Marami sa kanila even resulted to death. Such notorious lists have further endangered the already perilous situation of human rights defenders. We have repeatedly raised how these arbitrary and baseless accusations incite threats to the lives and security of named individuals, the worst of which is that they become victims of extrajudicial killings,” she said.

Captain Regie Go, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro, denied the document came from the military: “Ngayon lang namin nakita ang document, hindi sa amin galing yan.”

Palabay called on the Commission on Human Rights and the local government units to protect the rights of defenders and make accountable those who violate the human rights.

Karapatan, Sandugo and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas joined relatives of victims of human rights violations and other Mindanao-based rights activists in a National Solidarity Mission from February 21 to 22, 2019, to look into the situation of recently arrested activists such as Kalumbay leader Datu Jomorito Guaynon, KMP leader Ireneo Udarbe and the four members of the Misamis Oriental Farmers Association and that of evacuees from Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental.

Before this gathering, Karapatan-Northern Mindanao said church worker Aldeem Yañez was also harassed after agents from the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and Military Intelligence Brigade visited their home in Barangay Iponan, asking for Yañez’s personal information.

Yañez was monitored for about a week, with suspicious persons on two motorcycles waiting outside their home.

“Activists and everyone are being wrongly tagged as terrorists. The anti-terror law is being arbitrarily used against activists like Guaynon and Udarbe. This situation is made worse by the continuing implementation of martial law in Mindanao,” Palabay said.

“We affirm the urgent need for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao, as we lament that the Supreme Court has recently ruled again for its extension. We assert that martial law has worsened the already difficult situation of the Mindanaoans. Nevertheless, the people of Mindanao will continue to persist and resist,” she added. (With Alwen Saliring)


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