QUEZON City, July 3, 2015—An alliance of faith-based communities has decried the recent spate of harassments of unionists and activists it believes were perpetrated no less than by state agents.
In a media release, Rex Reyes, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), expresses alarm over the incident and other reported cases.
“We deplore this brazen act of harassment that involved intrusion in the homes of people as an abuse and misuse of power. We denounce this act of harassment that involves state security forces refusing to identify themselves fully. We condemn this act of harassment that is obviously part of the government’s national security policy,” he explains.
According to Reyes, there are now more than 20 such cases involving union officers and organizers of COURAGE (Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees) and other progressive organizations since April 2015, all of whom harassed by persons claiming to be members of the Philippine military and police.
Appeal to PNoy
“We urge the government of Pres. Benigno Aquino III to rein in its state security forces from harassing people. We urge people to keep vigilant that the inviolability of our homes to be kept at all times. Let us keep watch that those who seek to undermine our rights, especially from those who claim authority be exposed,” he says.
Reyes notes the labor group has been at the forefront of government employees’ struggle for decent wages and workers’ rights, clamoring in particular for a Php 16,000 across-the-board salary increase.
The latest case of harassment happened on June 28, 2015, involving Mervin H. Toquero, acting program secretary of NCCP’s Program Unit on Faith, Witness and Service, and his wife, Raquel, COURAGE’s national organizer.
The couple feel unsafe after they received a “surprise visit” right in heir own backyard from two men who introduced themselves as soldiers, but refused to reveal any further information.
Reyes shares, “When he [Melvin] asked who they were and what their purpose was, one of the two persons told him that they were soldiers and that they wanted to talk to Raquel. Mervin asked for their identification and their mission order but they refused to present any. Instead, one of the two men, of medium height and built, around 25-30 years of age, fair complexion and wearing a green ball cap, green pants and a yellow polo shirt, said they wanted to talk to Raquel for they know what she has been doing and they want to help her.”
The NCCP general secretary adds Mervin insisted that they talk properly in the family’s veranda and that their official documents be shown, to no avail, with the men peering into the house through the windows instead.
The Toqueros state they have reason enough to be afraid as the climate of impunity in the Philippines is such that human rights defenders are killed by state agents even inside their houses.
Speaking for NCCP, Reyes declares they will continue to announce and denounce rights violations, expressing solidarity with the Toqueros, the officers and organizers of COURAGE, and other human rights defenders likewise threatened and harassed.
“Our Constitution guarantees the freedom to organize and form unions and to air their collective grievances. People who work for human rights contribute a great deal for a country to have a vibrant democracy. We also call on our churches and our partners overseas to write letters of concern to President Aquino, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, and the Commission of Human Rights regarding this issue,” he adds. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)