By LITO RULONA
A missionary group condemned the move of the government forces in arresting field workers who were reportedly engaged with activist organizations.
In a press statement sent by Ailene Villarosa, Advocacy Program Coordinator of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR) condemned law enforcement units who arrested Godfrey Palahang.
Villarosa quoted Palahang’s statement after he was forced to surrender because of his alleged engagement with activist organization saying, “It is a right to organize farm workers so that they too can learn about their rights.”
She said Palahang is one of the staff of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Region as a fieldworker organizing indigenous Human Rights Defenders under our project Promoting and Protecting the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights in the Philippines.
“He was helping organize farm workers in his hometown. His experience and familiarity of the issues in Bukidnon were an asset to our organization, which is committed to land rights and issues of the rural poor,” she added.
Palahang is the second fieldworker to be linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines-led New People’s Army. Last year, Julito Otacan, a fieldworker from Agusan del Sur, was arrested, accused of possessing live ammunition.
Another staff, involved in the transport of sanctuaried Human Rights Defenders, has also been harassed by individuals who identified themselves to be ‘government employees.’
“They accosted him on his way home, pressed for information about persons that the staff allegedly transported. He was told that if he wouldn’t cooperate, they will have to recommend to have him ‘picked up.’ This prompted him to resign from the office, even as he needed employment to continue to provide for his family. He knew the importance of the work he was doing, and he did not want to further risk the HRDs he was working with,” she explained.
RMP-NMR find it deplorable that the state continues to hinder the work of their fieldworkers, and their staff in general, accusing them of being rebels.
“We challenge all these people who are quick to judge our work to go to the field and immerse with our communities – without the names and connections that have given them the privileges in their lives, without the money that have been wrapping them in cozy bubbles inspecting society as if only their narrow lens is the correct lens,” Villarosa said.