CHR probes ‘surveillance, profiling of Gabriela, Makabayan bloc officers by AFP’

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has started its own investigation on the reported surveillance and profiling of the officers of Gabriela and Makabayan bloc in Tondo, Manila allegedly by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

It cited the complaint of Renerose Bihay, secretary general of Gabriela, on the alleged profiling of her identity last March 13 by the AFP Joint Task Force-National Capital Region in a barangay in Tondo, Manila.

It also said that Enrique Lozada Jr., Makabayan Bloc coordinator, also complained that he was profiled, also on March 13, by soldiers from the same AFP task force. Lozada also complained that the soldiers took photographs of his house in Tondo, it said.

At the same time, the CHR said that three other Tondo residents also complained of alleged harassment by military officers last April 27.

The CHR cited the report to PLt. Col. Rosalino Ibay, Jr., station commander of Manila Police District-Station 1, who said the deployment of soldiers in his area of jurisdiction only serves to augment the police in maintaining peace and order in Tondo.

It also cited the report of the officials of Barangay 105 in Tondo that the soldiers coordinated with them in setting up their barracks, which were put up on March 9.

Aside from joining the visibility patrol of the Barangay Security Development Office and the police during night time, the barangay officials also reported that soldiers have also conducted feeding programs and civic action in the community, the CHR said.

In a statement, the CHR said that while the commission recognizes the efforts of the AFP task force to ensure peace, order, and security, it reminded law enforcers that doing so must never breach human rights – the rights to privacy and safety -- which are guaranteed under the Constitution.

"Genuine work towards peace and security should enhance the safety and dignity of all individuals, regardless of socio-political affiliation, ideological belief, sector, among others," it said.

As it conducts its investigation, the CHR continued to raise the alarm against the dangers of profiling since this classifies persons into certain categories and labels, which undermines their rights.

Based on its findings in the CHR Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, profiling or data collection can result in discrimination and may even endanger the safety, life, and liberty of profiled individuals as has been the case for many members and officers of organizations that are branded as "leftists."

"CHR continues to monitor and investigate reports of harassment, surveillance, or attacks against groups and individuals who are vocal critics of the government," the CHR said.

"Diverse and dissenting voices are important to enable vibrant and open dialogues on pressing issues, which are essential to continuous national development and durable peace," it stressed.