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BAYAN to Pnoy: Hands Off Activists and Human Rights Defenders

Press Statement
July 18, 2015

The increased and widespread harassment and intimidation of government critics and oppositionists in the run-up to Pres. Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) later this month is a dangerous sign that the Aquino government is adopting the tactics of notorious human rights violator Jovito Palparan – with the blessings of the Arroyo administration – in trying to quell anti-government protests.

Within the past three weeks, BAYAN has received alarming reports of soldiers, police and other state agents hounding union leaders and community organizers, human rights defenders and social activists, as well as progressive professionals, in their homes, workplaces and even in public, such as restaurants and on the street. They tell their targets that their activities are being monitored or that they are already identified as members of the CPP/NPA. They make veiled threats of something bad happening if their targets do not stop their social involvements. Invariably, these state agents leave a name and number to contact if and when their targets are ready to “cooperate”.

The victims of this latest spate of harassment and intimidation come from as far south as General Santos City to as far north as Cagayan Valley. Particularly targeted are activists and leaders in BAYAN-affiliated public sector unions, trade unions, youth and student groups, health workers and professionals, urban poor communities and progressive party list groups.

Even church workers and human rights defenders are not spared, like 15 colleagues in SocSarGen and Davao who were recently slapped with trumped-up charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for helping Ata Manobo and Balaan communities flee their militarized areas.

Clearly the objective of this intense harassment from state agents is to intimidate their victims into silence and inaction at a time when Aquino is salvaging whatever is left of his supposed “tuwid-na-daan” legacy, desperately looking for people to drag on his bumpy, crooked path to nowhere.

This is exactly the same kind of vilification and harassment tactics that then Gen. Palparan utilized wherever he was assigned, along with a spike in extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of people suspected to be CPP/NPA leaders, members and even just sympathizers.

Pres. Aquino and his military and police forces are so desperate to silence his critics and derail the nationwide SONA protests that they have decided to do a Palparan.

Worse, the recent appointment of generals in the Palparan mold, with bloody human rights track records to their name, to head the AFP and the Philippine Army bodes a renewed spate of illegal arrests, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

BAYAN and the Filipino people will not be cowed by this latest fascist rampage under the counterinsurgency program, OPLAN Bayanihan of the Aquino regime. The upcoming SONA protests will be the biggest and most damning ever. We shall continue speaking out against the evils of the current regime presiding over a rotten, dying system and empower our people to struggle for a new and better government and society.###