Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) strongly condemns the harassment of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Ilocos Sur, which held CPA Chair Windel Bolinget, CPA Vice Chair Xavier Akien and staff of the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC) in a check point at Tirad Pass today shortly before 12nn. CPA and CDPC were on the way home to Baguio after a community meeting in Quirino with Save Quirino Movement (SQM) people’s organisation. SQM is a local partner of the CPA and CDPC.
From the checkpoint in Tirad Pass, they were brought to the PNP outpost in San Emilio where they were illegally held and without reason for an hour, upon the directive of Police Supt. Gabriel Alessandro Labador and Senior Police Officer Tolosa. After sometime, with assertion from CPA and CDPC, they were released, only to be flagged down again in more PNP checkpoints in Lidlidda and Banayoyo. As of presstime there could be more PNP checkpoints stationed along the highway.
We believe that there is no other reason for the harassment and intimidation than the community meeting that CPA and CDPC had with Save Quirino Movement, where human rights violations of the 81st Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is an urgent concern of the communities therein. The 81st Infantry Battalion is specifically maligning and red-tagging the SQM and CPA. Leaders of SQM are severely harassed by the 81st IB.
It is also the 81st IB with the 71st DRC that filed trumped-up charges against women human rights defenders in the Cordillera. Just very recently we also received reports from the CPA chapter in Abra that the 24th Infantry Battalion illegally searched residences in Mudiit, Dolores municipality. All these are under the 7th Infantry Division of the AFP.
We urgently appeal to the public in condemning the harassment of State security forces to the people, to communities and people’s organisations. Pull out AFP troops in communities! Hold the 7th Infantry Division accountable for its human rights violations in the north Luzon provinces of Abra and Ilocos Sur!