Int'l delegates hit surveillance of confab pax, use of "nat'l security" to justify repression

International peace activists and human rights defenders attending the International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (ICHRPP) condemned the deployment of military and police surveillance agents in their activities even as they geared up to join tomorrow’s SONA protests.
 
Security personnel of the conference apprehended a police officer and suspected military asset in two separate incidents yesterday (July 20).
 
Caught taking photos of delegates and conference vehicle plate numbers was a certain Kenneth Mendez, who claimed to be a reporter but could not mention what media outfit he was working for. Also apprehended was a certain PO2 Emilio Fetalvo Jr. who admitted being ordered by a certain Col. Pelibilio of the PNP to conduct surveillance of the conference.  Fetalvo was previously seen shadowing staff members of the Karapatan national office.
“I am indignant at the covert surveillance of conference participants . But we will not be intimidated from joining the Filipino people in the vigorous protests tomorrow,” said Paul Murphy, an Australian labor rights activist.
Delegate Ron Gochez, an American teacher who joined a team that visited Davao City’s militarized Paquibato district last week, described his group’s encounter with soldiers in the area: “We were there for less than five minutes and this is what we saw: the military, and military intelligence operatives taking pictures when we arrived, taking pictures of the people, taking pictures, trying to intimidate the people.”
“The people do not want any more militarization. They want schools, they want health care, they want roads,” Gochez lamented.
Delegates also decried the exaggerated deployment of military, police and crowd dispersal units for tomorrow’s SONA protests based on an alleged intelligence report indicating a national security threat.
Ironically, the issue of “national security” and the consequent violation of the people’s socio-economic  and civil and political rights was the focus of discussions in the past two days of the ICHRPP.  Such concern was summed up by international lawyer Anna Morris from the U.K., who said the concept of national security “should center on securing the economic and political rights of the people. It is those rights that the President should put in the heart of his State of the Nation Address on Monday.”  
Added Morris: “This is my third visit here in the Philippines and on each occasion, the level of repression increases, not decreases, against those who are legitimately engaged in the protection and representation of the vulnerable, the dispossessed and the poor.  In a modern society, it should be that impunity decreases and accountability increases, but sadly  that is not the case in the current government.”###