Karapatan condemns supposed attacks on ACT members

Published October 22, 2019, 11:16 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Chito Chavez

Human rights group Karapatan has condemned the supposed attacks against the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) claiming it appeared to be organized efforts to crack down, intimidate, and even kill its members.

Karapatan (Twitter)
Karapatan (Twitter)

Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said the demand of teachers for an increase of their basic pay is clear and legitimate.

She insisted on the series of organized actions of teachers all over the country has prompted the government to now intensify its attacks against teacher-unionists affiliated with ACT.

Last week, Palabay recounted that one teacher in Bukidnon was the victim of frustrated killing while another is currently detained due to trumped-up charges.

She claimed the government is wary of any form of unity and collective action among various sectors.

“Wanting to insidiously spread an atmosphere of fear and to discourage teachers to uphold their basic rights, government resorts to human rights violations,’’ Palabay said.

“How truly ruthless this government is to even criminalize and target teachers. Truly, no one is exempt from state terrorism,” she added.

Palabay said that at about 8 a.m. on October 15, 2019, ACT – Region 10 member Zhaydee Cabañelez survived an ambush and is recovering after four masked gunmen shot her several times in front of school children in Dalit Elementary School, Valencia City, Bukidnon.

Cabañelez is the 2016 Outstanding Teacher awardee in her barangay and is also actively involved in the campaign for the improved welfare of teachers.

On the slay-try against Cabañelez, Palabay assailed the military for seemingly justifying the attack against the teacher because she is allegedly the daughter of a New People’s Army (NPA) officer.

“We have received confirmation that the parents of Cabañelez are both active members of peasant organization KASAMA Bukidnon. Her parents have been consistently red-tagged by the military. However, regardless of this and even if she were, hypothetically, the daughter of an NPA officer, reprisal against her is against international humanitarian law (IHL.) The fact that the military is once again floating this dangerous idea that families of combatants can be held hostaged or attacked to force armed combatants to surrender indicates their propensity to deliberately violate IHL. This government is working incessantly to blur the lines between combatant and civilian and has qualified us all as targets,” she noted.

Meanwhile, ACT–Bulacan provincial coordinator Digna Mateo, 57, was nabbed during a joint operation conducted by the Bulacan Provincial Intelligence Branch, together with the intelligence units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and police personnel of Meycauayan City and Marilao.

The operatives, who arrived on board three vans, arrested Mateo at around 1:45 p.m. on October 16, 2019 at the Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Marilao, Bulacan on trumped-up murder charges.

Palabay said Mateo was brought to Camp Alejo Santos in Malolos City and was paraded to the media as an arrested NPA despite the fact that she had been working for teacher unions for a long time.
Mateo was tailed last week by government agents as she campaigned for the election of ACT-Central Luzon union as the sole and exclusive negotiating agent in the region.

“Immediately after the celebration of World Teachers Day when thousands of teachers marched for P30,000 basic pay, this government has zeroed its attacks on teachers. This is not a coincidence, but an insidious attempt to sow fear among the ranks of teacher-unionists. We consider these as organized, targeted attacks against ACT, its members, and teachers who actively fight for their rights and demands,” Palabay argued.

She added: “Moreover, these are part of the Duterte regime’s broader crackdown on progressives, activists, unionists, organizers, and human rights defenders whom the fascist state gleefully labels as ‘terrorists’ and ‘enemies of the state.’ The government considers them as such because they expose the real political and economic crisis in the country, which is compounded by the Duterte regime’s failure to solve these fundamental problems.”

Karapatan noted ACT and its members have been at the receiving end of many state-perpetrated attacks such as months of police profiling and red-tagging, as well as threats and harassment.

Palabay said the crackdown on ACT “shows that the Duterte regime is trembling in fear in the face of a growing people’s movement and is now resorting to fearmongering tactics and harassment to divide and silence teacher-unionists who are advancing the united fight of Filipino teachers for a living wage.”