DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 February) – A “hit list” believed to have come from the military tagging church people, human rights advocates, lawyers and a journalist as “terrorist members of the New People’s Army and Communist Party of the Philippines” was distributed Friday in Cagayan de Oro City.
Among those named as “terrorists” were Iglesia Filipino Independiente Bp. Felixberto Calang, Fr. Rolando Abejo of Movement Against Tyranny-Northern Mindanao, Karapatan Northern Mindanao spokesperson Fr. Khen Apus, human rights lawyers Beverly Musni, Czarina Musni and Beverly Ann Musni, and journalist Cong Corrales and his family.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said that at around 10:30am on Friday, during the Hustisya-Northern Mindanao assembly and launching at Philtown Hotel, a suspected military agent approached the hotel’s security guard and handed him two brown envelopes.
Each envelope contained 13 copies of the “hit list” which also included organizations of youth and teachers.
Palabay, who attended the event at Philtown Hotel, deplored the release of the list as “yet another case of harassment against human rights defenders in Northern Mindanao.”
“Such notorious lists have further endangered the already perilous situation of human rights defenders. We have repeatedly raised how these arbitrary and baseless accusations incite threats to the lives and security of named individuals, the worst of which is that they become victims of extrajudicial killings. We call on the Commission on Human Rights and the local governments to protect the rights defenders and make accountable those who continue to put their lives at risk,” she said.
She said Karapatan, Sandugo and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas joined relatives of victims of human rights violations and other Mindanao-based rights activists in a National Solidarity Mission from February 21-22.
She said the mission looked into the situation of detained activists Kalumbay leader Datu Jomorito Guaynon, KMP leader Ireneo Udarbe and four members of the Misamis Oriental Farmers Association and that of evacuees from Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental.
Guaynon and Udarbe were arrested last January 28 in Cagayan de Oro.
Philippine National Police Northern Mindanao spokesperson Supt. Surki Serenas tagged the two as “top New People’s Army leaders” allegedly responsible for the attack of the police station in Binuangan town, Misamis Oriental last Dec. 2, 2017.
“Activists and everyone are being wrongly tagged as terrorists. The anti-terror law is being arbitrarily used against activists like Guaynon and Udarbe. This situation is made worse by the continuing implementation of martial law in Mindanao,” Palabay said.
“We affirm the urgent need for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao, as we lament that the Supreme Court has recently ruled again for its extension. We assert that martial law has worsened the already difficult situation of the Mindanaoans. Nevertheless, the people of Mindanao will continue to persist and resist,” she added.
In a statement Friday, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) deplored the inclusion of Corrales, a former director of the group, in the list.
“There is nothing more cowardly and deplorable than to vilify persons and put them in mortal peril behind the cloak of anonymity,” the NUJP statement said.
“And as has happened all too often, Red tagging is not mere intimidation. All too often it can be a virtual death sentence,” it said.
“Even media have not been spared from Red-tagging and other acts clearly intended to intimidate a critical press into silence, as with the ongoing vilification campaign against the NUJP and the cyberattacks on alternative media,” it added. (MindaNews)