Rina Mangili Libongen, or Rima for short, is a 35-year old mother of three residing in Ucab, Itogon, Benguet, Philippines. She belongs to the Ibaloi indigenous people’s group. She has been organizing youth and children for the theater arts and the Cordillera people’s movement since her college days at the Benguet State University in the early 2000s. A member of the music group Salidummay, Rima is also Secretary-General of BUDAY, Bileg ken Urnos dagiti Agtutubo nga Ybenguet (Strength and Unity of the Benguet Youth), a province-wide organization she was instrumental in establishing in 2010.
Since May 27 this year, Rima has been stalked and harassed by two men whom we suspect to be military or police agents. The two have been tailing her both in Itogon and in Baguio City. On May 30, one of these men monitored the proceedings of a youth assembly that Rima facilitated in the Itogon Training Center in Bua, Tuding. Early in the morning of June 3, while Rima was at Shoppers’ Lane between Lakandula Street and General Luna Road in Baguio, the two men accosted her, and one of them clasped her forearm. He only let go when shopkeepers started opening the doors to their stores. The two men fled. But later that day, they tailed Rima again. And Rima received a text message on her cellphone saying, “Marami ka palang pinupuntahang lugar” (Oh, so you go to many places). To avoid getting harassed again by text messages, Rima changed her number. But on June 8, she received a new message saying, “Tukoy ka na” (You’ve been pinpointed)!
We, Rima’s colleagues in the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance Benguet Chapter, KAIABANG (Kabenguetan Agkaykaysa nga Ilaban ken Aywanan ti Biag, Daga, ken Kinabaknang, or Benguet Unite to Defend and Nurture Life, Land, and Resources), believe that the two men who have been stalking and harassing Rima are doing so to intimidate her. They want to instill fear in her so that she will give up her activities as a leader and organizer of the Benguet youth movement. We also fear, however, that their agenda might include more than harassment and intimidation, and so we are anxious for our colleague’s safety especially since Rima remains committed in the pursuit of our shared cause.
Comfortable in the impunity afforded them by the present dispensation, the military and police are capable of anything these days – as they were at the time of Marcos’s Martial Law and Macapagal-Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya. So like Rima, remain steadfast in struggle, but be on the alert! #