Stop harassment of human rights defenders!
“Leave our fellow human rights defender Sherwin de Vera alone!” Karapatan demanded from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for threatening and harassing De Vera, former secretary general of Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA), a regional chapter of Karapatan. De Vera is the regional coordinator of Bayan Muna Partylist and a researcher-activist against large-scale and destructive mining in Ilocos, particularly of black sand mining corporations.
De Vera has been receiving text messages (SMS), as early as 2011, recruiting him to be an informant of the AFP and at the same time imputing on his so-called involvement in the underground movement. AFP personnel are reportedly harassing even De Vera’s relatives.
On June 20, 2014, de Vera’s uncle Benjamin Pacris received a call from an unidentified number. When he answered, a male voice introduced himself as a member of a certain National Intelligence Service Agency (NISA). The caller wanted a personal meeting with Pacris, who in turn acceded to meet the man at the Provincial Capitol. The male caller came with a certain “Milo” and “Joey” who were members of “NISA”. Milo said he is in-charge of “NISA’s” operations in Ilocos Norte and Abra.
“Milo” and “Joey” asked about Sherwin de Vera and his activities, such as his involvement with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and with organizations opposed to the mining operations in the region. “Milo” convinced Pacris to arrange a meeting between him and De Vera, and provided a contact number.
On June 29, de Vera got messages (SMS) from “Larry” with cellphone number 09395919363. “Larry” offered De Vera P10, 000.00 a month for “monitoring work on sectoral organizations”. The offer may increase “depnde s cooperatn at level ng position” (depending on your cooperation and level of position).
In one of the messages sent by “Larry”, he implied that De Vera is a member of a “Party”, “Alam ko mlalim ng kamulatan mo s Partido, im nt attempting to break that, pagisipan mo lang offer ko” (I know your deep involvement in the Party, I am not attempting to break that, just think about my offer). De Vera did not reply to this message and to the others that followed.
As early as February 2011, De Vera has been haunted with similar text messages: “kamusta kan kabsat? ASIDEG KAN” (How are you brother? YOU’RE NEAR); “Awagam amin nga santon! Kumpay ni patay umayen” (Call all the saints! The shadow of death is near.); and, “pagyamanam no makastrek ka pay no bigat” (Be thankful if you’ll be able to come to work tomorrow).
In 2010, while De Vera worked at the University of Northern Philippines, the military ordered the Campus Security Division (CSSD) Chief Nolito Ragunjan to monitor closely De Vera’s activities. As early as 2004, the AFP has labelled De Vera of being a member of the CPP-NPA when he was a researcher and community educator for Save the Abra River Movement.
“The AFP is not only recruiting Sherwin but also harassing and intimidating him. The intelligence group wants to tell Sherwin that he is being suspected as a member of the CPP and that he is under surveillance. This is a cause of alarm for human rights defenders, especially with the Aquino administration’s Oplan Bayanihan. Many of those who were victims of extrajudicial killings were once subjects of threat, harassment and red tagging,” Palabay said.
Karapatan said these threats and harassment should stop, as the organization also called for the passage of House Bill 1472 “Human Rights Defenders’ Protection Act of 2013” filed by Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate, which seeks to recognize the role of human rights defenders and provide protection mechanisms especially to those who are at risk. This bill has been pending since 2013.
Cristina “Tinay” Palabay
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Building
#1 Maaralin corner Matatag Streets
Central District, Diliman
Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.