KASAMA Vol. 14 No. 4 / October-November-December 2000 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

The first six months of the year 2000 have seen a wave of attacks against militant people's organizations and non-government organizations in the Cordillera and in the llocos Region. These attacks came in the form of arrests, breaking into and ransacking offices, heightened surveillance of people by military intelligence units, and spreading of false information.

In the early morning of 7 February 2000, the office of Dinteg (Cordillera Indigenous Peoples Law Center) in Baguio City was ransacked by unidentified men, who carted away files, computer diskettes, cassette tapes, and valuable office equipment. On the same day, the house of Bishop Juan Marigza, a staunch human rights advocate was also broken into. Then on February 9, an attempt to forcibly break into the office of the Mining Communities Development Center, another Baguio-based NGO, was discovered by its staff.

In April, there was a systematic attempt to discredit legitimate NGOs in Northern Luzon by circulating letters through the media falsely signed in their name. The letters were published in the Philippine Post, a national newspaper. The Cordillera Women's Education and Resource Center (CWERC) was one of the organizations whose name was falsely used.

These incidents were followed by the issuance of warrants and actual arrests of NGO and church workers in the llocos Region. Arrested were Lorna Rivera Baba, a church worker of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), Nomer Kuan, a Rural Missionaries Program worker and Romeo Sanchez, a staff coordinator of the La Union NGO-PO Development Network. The three were included in a list of 18 individuals who were allegedly linked to the killing of Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army leader Conrado Balweg. Among the other accused are two priests of the IFI and two pastors of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

Then on April 27, 2000, the Regional Office of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in Baguio City was broken into by four armed men believed to be members of the Military Intelligence Unit. This incident was preceded by obvious heightened surveillance of the CPA office and personnel typical of police or military intelligence operations. Voluminous files and valuable equipment of the CPA were stolen during the incident.

This series of events can not be simply dismissed as isolated cases, coincidences or mere burglaries. As Dinteg declared, "The pattern of these events all point to a well-planned, state-instigated campaign to harass, intimidate, terrorize, and ultimately attempt to incapacitate ... organizations and offices who have been involved in the broad democratic movement, particularly on issues concerning violations of human rights and indigenous peoples' rights. In short, we are witnesses to a renewed and still unfolding campaign of state terrorism."

The other targetted organizations have also issued statements condemning the incidents of harassment. As Dinteg said, "It is of paramount importance to resist all attempts of the Estrada government to clamp down on legitimate organizations and activities. All advocates of human rights and indigenous peoples' rights should not be cowed, nor allow any case of terrorism to go unchallenged. Instead we should all stand vigilant in the protection of human rights and in the defense of the democratic peoples' movement."

Source: Reprinted from Chaneg, January/June 2000
published by Cordillera Women's Education and Resource Center (CWERC), Baguio City, Philippines.