At around 6pm on the night of 7 February 2017, development worker Rogina Quilop was illegally detained by members of the Central Intelligence Detection Group in Bacolod City. Quilop is an officer of the Center for People’s Resources and Services (CPRS), a non-government organization that provides disaster response and other socio-economic services to marginalized groups in Negros island.
Quilop is the latest in the long list of development workers under threat from the government and its security forces. Under President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, we were hopeful that attacks on the right to development of the Filipino people as well as threats on the lives of development workers will cease. We had hoped that development organizations such as CPRS can continue with their work safe and unmolested, providing socio-economic projects and services to the most marginalized people in the country. We fervently hoped for this, especially since Duterte had shown his willingness to enter into peace negotiations with the national Democractic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Moro liberation groups.
Yet even during the peace negotiations and the unilateral ceasefires declared by both Duterte’s administration and the NDFP, killings, threats, and intimidation of development workers and activists continued. Since January 2017, six development activists have already been killed, three of them Lumad from Mindanao. The right to development of marginalized groups in the country such as workers, farmers, and Indigenous Peoples were trampled on despite the ongoing peace negotiations.
Duterte’s recent declaration of an “all-out war” against the Communist Party of the Philippines now puts the lives of development workers in danger. It is now open season again for red-baiting, hunting down and killing development workers and activists whose only aim is to help our countrymen and women who are most in need. Because development workers are now threatened again, this also places at risk socio-economic projects such as indigenous schools which provide the much-needed development assistance to the poorest of our fellow Filipinos. Assistance that this government, despite all its promises, has so far failed to provide in full.
We development workers, urge the Duterte administration and other government officials to continue with peace negotiations with the NDFP instead of forging on with this anti-insurgency war which has already affected the lives of untold millions in the country. We call on the government and its military officials to respect the rights of development workers and the right to development of our countrymen and women as a whole. We further urge President Duterte to support socio-economic projects and initiatives that bring relief to our fellow Filipinos, instead of placing these projects and services at risk.
Hunting down development workers is not the answer to our country’s woes. Only peace based on justice can move this country forward.
Renmin Crisanta Abraham-Vizconde
Assert Socio-Economic Network of the Philippines