Development workers cry foul over illegal arrest and harassment of human rights defenders in Mindanao
The Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT) strongly condemns the illegal arrest of Gloria Jandayan and Gleceria Balangiao. The two were forcibly taken to a military camp in Bukidnon on Monday, February 11, for supposed interrogation over their alleged links to the New People’s Army.
ASCENT decries the event and the ongoing repression versus legitimate human rights and development workers.
Balangiao is a lay worker of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Subregion and a member of Panday Bulig, a provincial chapter of the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center (CDRC). While Jandayan is a barangay health worker of Brgy. Macabalan. She is also a member of Gabriela Women’s Party in Cagayan de Oro City and is the point person of Makabayan in assisting beneficiary patients to Northern Mindanao Medical Center.
A certain Captain Lorefel Judaya, an intelligence officer of the AFP’s 1st Special Forces Battalion, brought Gloria Jandayan and her daughter Gleceria Balangiao to their camp in Manolo Fortich.
Jandayan was first brought to the barangay hall for interrogation on the accusation that she is a medic of the NPA. She was later briefed that she needed to be brought to the 1st Special Forces Battalion camp in Bukidnon for additional interrogation. Balangiao came to the defense of her mother and the two reportedly declined to go with the army when the latter failed to generate a warrant. But Judaya was reportedly assertive on taking Jandayan, inciting Balangiao to go with her mother to guarantee her safety. Balangiao was able to send a message that they were being held at the 4th Infantry Division in Patag and their phones are about to be seized. No one has heard from them since their last message.
ASCENT fears that the two rights champions would be labelled next as “surrenderees” or be tagged as NPA chiefs just like the six Lumad and farmer activists jailed earlier.
Additional incidents of harassment were also reported in other parts of Mindanao.
On February 8, John Thimothy Romero, the program coordinator of the Center for Lumad Advocacy, Networking and Services (CLANS) also received death threats from an unknown caller, likewise mentioning Romero’s participation in the protest camp fronting the Department of Education Region 12 office in Koronadal City last July 2018.
On February 12, a lay worker of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR) whose name has been withheld, received threatening text messages from an unknown sender who is accusing the former of being involved with the NPA.
These occurrences are the repercussions from President Rodrigo Duterte’s command to carry out various forms of repression against development workers and human rights advocates, whom he tags as supposed legal communist fronts.
The continued declaration of Martial Law in Mindano has significantly contributed to the worsening situation of human rights in the island, contributing to the exposure of people working for peace and development to such aggression.