Farmers’ group, woman rights defender threatened in Aurora province, Central Luzon, Philippines

Case:    Threat, harassment and intimidation, surveillance

Victim/s:    

ROSEMARIE ROJAS, 44
- Community organizer and coordinator of Samahang Magbubukid na Kababaihan (Samaka or Association of Women Farmers), and  Panlalawigang Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Aurora (Pamana or Alliance of Peasants in the Aurora Province)

At least 42 households and residents of Sitio Ilaya, Barangay Zabali, Baler, Aurora

Staff members of Pamana

Places of Incident:    
- Sitio Ilaya, Barangay Zabali, Baler, Aurora
- The Pamana office located in Maria Aurora town, Aurora

Dates of Incident:    January 16 and 17, 2014

Alleged Perpetrator(s):
Two unidentified men believed to be the State intelligence agents; and, at least 15 elements of the 56th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army.

Account of the Incident:

On the evening of January 16, 2014, members of the Philippine Army surrounded the house of peasant organizer Rosemarie Rojas.

According to Rojas’s neighbors, at least 15 members of the 56th Infantry Battalion arrived in their community past 11:00 p.m. The soldiers surrounded Rojas’s house, as some soldiers were lying face-down on the grassy lot across the street, their guns trained at the house. A number of soldiers entered Rojas’s yard, peeked through the windows and through the small gaps on the walls.

The soldiers also entered the courtyards of several other houses nearby.

Residents said the soldiers left at around 2:00 a.m. of January 17, 2014. Rojas, who was sleeping alone on the second floor of her house, only found out about the incident in the morning of January 17, when her neighbors told her. She immediately reported to the village officials.

Also, on January 17, at past 11:00 a.m., two unidentified men believed to be State intelligence agents were seen conducting surveillance on the Pamana office in the town of Maria Aurora. A staff of Pamana noticed a tricycle parked near the office with two male passengers, one inside the tricycle’s cab, while the other was seated behind the driver. The Pamana staff member saw the man behind the driver taking photos of the office.

Then the men saw the Pamana staff, the tricycle driver sped away.

Rojas is a community organizer of Pamana, focused on the women’s sector. She works with the Samaka in the municipality of Baler, province of Aurora. Samaka, with Gabriela Women’s Partylist, is setting up community-based pharmacies for women and children’s basic health needs in select villages. Samaka was, at the time, also preparing for a medical mission.

Pamana actively participates in the campaign to oppose the Aurora Development Master Plan and Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Act of 2010 (APECO). The said project aims to transform the Casiguran town and Aurora province into a commercial and industrial district and eco-tourism zones. The APECO project is spearheaded by the Angara family through the former senator Edgardo Angara and Juan Edgardo Angara a member of the House of Representatives in Congress.

The APECO project, which resulted to massive land-grabbing and displacement of Dumagat and Alta tribes, is widely opposed by the people of Aurora, primarily by the farmers, fisherfolks and indigenous peoples.

Pamana is also involved in the campaign seeking justice for the killing of Romualdo Palispis, member of Bayan Muna and Justice and Peace Action Group of Aurora, and Wilhelm Geertman, a Dutch national who were killed on June 30 and July 3, 2012 respectively. Geertman spent almost 40 years in the Philippines as development worker. He was executive director of Alay Bayan-Luson, Inc.,

Recommended Action:

Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:
The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into the surveillance and threat, harassment and intimidation of rights defender Rosemarie Rojas and Panlalawigang Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Aurora (Pamana or Alliance of Peasants in the Aurora Province).
An end to the policy and practice of labelling and targeting of human rights defenders as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”
The Philippine government to withdraw its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians.
The Philippine government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.

You may send your communications to:

H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
E-mail: op@president.gov.ph

Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216
stqd.papp@opapp.gov.ph

Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600
Fax:+63(2) 982-5600
Email: osnd@philonline.com, dnd.opla@gmail.com

Atty. Leila De Lima
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-1908
Trunkline  523-84-81 loc.211/214
Fax: (+632) 523-9548
Email:  lmdelima@doj.gov.ph, lmdelima.doj@gmail.com, lmdelima.doj2@gmail.com

Hon.  Loretta Ann P. Rosales
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
Email:   chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com, lorettann@gmail.com

 

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below:

 

 

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