REQUEST FOR SOLIDARITY on the worsening political vilification including threats to indigenous human rights activists and development workers in Ifugao
We thank the IPMSDL members and partners who participated in the campaign event “Wear Blue Saturday – Nurture the Environment and Uphold the Human Rights in Ifugao.” Amidst worsening vilification and repression, our solidarity and those from many others strengthens the resolve of the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM) to persevere in the struggle for land, justice, and self-determination. Long live the Ifugao Peasant Movement! Long live international solidarity!
In an update provided by the IPM, the Ayangan tribe who is affected by SN Aboitiz’ 380 MW hydroelectric power project decried violations on the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process last July 4 and 5 in fora held in Lagawe and Lamut municipalities of Ifugao. The tribe members are worried because the company has started drilling activities within their territory without their permission.
Below is an open letter of Rene Abiva, a political detainee in Ifugao. He has been imprisoned for more than two years now.”
AN OPEN LETTER FROM A POLITICAL PRISONER
“It is now the time for the light of truth to shine; it is now the
time for us to show that we have feelings, honor, shame, and mutual
cooperation… therefore, O my countrymen! Let us open the eyes of our
minds and voluntarily consecrate our strength to what is good in the
true and full faith that the prosperity of the land of our birth, which
is aimed at, will come to pass.”- Andres Bonifacio_
I am Rene Boy Abiva, a political prisoner here in the Philippines and
currently detained under the custody of the Bureau of Jail Management
and Penology-Cordillera Administrative Region (BJMP-CAR). I am one of
the hundred political detainees in the whole archipelago languishing due
to fabricated charges.
More than two years behind bars and barbed wires is never easy. Every
day is a day of psychological torture. Each day is a struggle of the
human spirit to consolidate itself to endure total isolation from the
society. I became a stranger in my own nation. I think, this is the
government’s objective: to pacify one’s “politik” in actual
engagement for the near de-construction and construction of a new
Before my arrest, I worked as a community social worker in Baggao in
the province of Cagayan under the regional office of the Department of
Social Welfare and Development-Field Office 02 (DSWD-F02). My main task
was to facilitate and expedite programs of the national government to
alleviate poverty. The gap of the rich and poor in the area, like the
rest of the provinces in the Philippines is high, but government program
was shallow and short-sighted and thus resulted in chaos. Beyond
language and symbol, the Filipino version of the Conditional Cash
Transfer (CCT) is merely a “dole-out” and never hit the root of the
problem of the Philippine society. It just serves the greedy interest of
the ruling class and the politicians, thus, in the long run, will bring
individuals and families into total catastrophe.
During weekdays, I am a social worker but weekends were spent studying
at the Graduate School of the Cagayan State University under its
academic program Master of Arts in Social Studies. Recognizing the need
for sectoral participation in social transformation, I helped in
arousing, organizing and mobilizing public school teachers under the
Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT). Teachers need a nationalist,
militant and progressive organization for the actualization of their
aspirations as agent of enlightenment. They are also victims of tyranny,
anarchy and hegemony. Their day-to-day experiences, like common class
experiences of the peasants and workers, are manifestations of the kind
of society the Philippines has. The educational system they are in is
repressive, oppressive and commercialized,-a common denominator of a
society that has been colonized and is continually controlled by outside
powers. Even now, educations main function is to supply the increasing
need of market capitalism.
It was December 28, 2013, a day that turned all things into
repercussion-the day of my arrest. The ambience was a mixture of pain,
sorrow, fear, anger, powerlessness and all virtual inexhaustibility of
its finitude. I saw tears in the eyes of a hundred program
beneficiaries, co-workers, relatives, friends, comrades and my wife.
This consecration of the emotions is like triggering an explosion to its
magnitude. And spending the first New Year in an isolated cell, guarded
by a platoon of police and soldiers was unforgettable. The scene was
terrible. What made me worry and nervous was their autocratic and
militaristic efforts to hide my arrest and possible transportation from
the burning eyes of the public.
I am a prisoner now and dressed in yellow shirt. A problematic analogy
now exist and like the assumed resonance of the imprisonment of the soul
within the body is same to the imprisonment of man to his own society.
Life behind thick and high walls, gripped with deadly, poisonous and
sharp combat wires is a repetitive compulsion and fetishism. The stomach
can no longer digest food and the flesh is hungry and ready to rebel.
Prison reminds us, not only the dungeon type cell of St Paul but also
the deception behind laughs, jokes, shouts of prisoners is a bottomless
pit of agony, This is not a fiction or part or system of rhetorically
creative thinking and writing but rather a concrete reflection of human
and class sublimation. Like the analogy of Antonio Gramsci, It’s like
being caught between the old and slowly dying social regime and a new
social regime that has not yet fully emerged from the womb of the old.
Now, the province of Ifugao where I’m detained is converted into a
garrison. Aside from having its three political prisoners, members of
the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM) were in an alarming condition. State
security forces systematically launch vilification and red tagging
campaign against leaders and members who show sympathy and support to
political prisoners and to their struggle on all forms of large and
destructive foreign mining. The State often link people’s movement to
the New People’s Army- the armed wing of the Communist Party of the
To suppress this collective praxis, state security forces mobilized its
paramilitary units and executed William Bugatti, one of the indigenous
people’s leaders. He was shot treacherously at his back in March 25,
2014 after our court hearing. Before his death, comrade William was
vilified as an NPA supporter and later figured in a 2012 target list of
the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army where he was labeled
as “brains of the NPA”.
Brandon Lee, one of the IPM volunteer received a death threat last
April 2015. Lee is one of the few people living in Ifugao who visits the
political detainnees. In an article in the Weekly Newspaper Northern
Dispatch, he says members of the IPM and community leaders received a
brown manila envelope that contains a photo of a rectangular Ifugao
woven cloth laid on the ground. The photo also bears the caption “gray
May, June gloom, no sky July”. According to the Ifugao customs and
traditions, the woven article is used to wrap the dead and the manner
that it was laid on the ground in a rectangular structure signifies the
dimensions of a grave. It is clearly a bastardization of the Ifugao
culture to use the ‘traditional blanket of the dead’ for other
intentions especially death threats.
My defense lawyer, Atty. Maria Catherine Dannug-Salucon experienced
series of harassment and threat after Bugatti’s death. Men with
military built roam around her law office in the province of Isabela.
Civilian intelligence assets were also used to gather information on her
whereabouts. Malicious and baseless accusations that she has connections
to the revolutionary underground were also released.
Is this the price of serving the people? Is this the price of our
collective articulation for our country’s search for a new meaning to
render the genuine and fundamental value of being with humanity? Or the
price of revealing that behind the valorized slogans of “daang
matuwid”, “democracy”, “liberty” and “corruption free” is
a life of exclusive beauty, wealth, power, grandeur and luxury of the
few elite ruling the country?
What does it all mean? It simply means that the puppet BS Aquino regime
is so desperate to cover all its terroristic and dirty work. This regime
is maximizing the use of its apparatuses like the Courts, Military and
Bureaucracy to interrupt and to create gap and confusion to the radical
transformation and alternative that the peoples’ movement will bring.
This is the specter that haunts the reactionaries state metaphysics ,
idols and icons, mimetic representation, and like a machine that
assembles the molecular indices and intensifies to dismantle all
apparatuses of hegemonic power. And this machine, this concrete
symbolism of the people’s will and desire-the endless root of their
striving- to build their own destiny, history and resurrection. Above
all, the melting point of all metaphors, of course, is the reality.
Imprisonment, hard and harsh, is a tool and method to hegemonize other
prevents the power of human spirit to enlighten the whole. This
revolutionary spirit and enlightenment, is more powerful than any weapon
in history because it has the ability and potentials beyond myth and
parable to bombard camps and detachments of reaction. The task of the
spirit, through the realization of their striving and discontent. To
borrow Leon Trotsky’s confession before his execution: “I can’t
stop believing in reason, in human solidarity, failures and
disappointments can’t stop me from seeing beyond the present defeat to
a rising of the oppressed everywhere. This is no Utopian prophecy, It is
the sober prediction of a dialectical materialist. I have never lost
faith in the revolutionary power of the masses. But we must be prepared
for a long fight. For years, maybe decades of revolt, civil wars, new
revolts, new wars.”
Comrades, let us continue supporting all calls and campaigns for the
immediate release of all political prisoners, national liberation and
the total smashing of all forms and types of reactions. We already
interpreted the world; the point now is how to change it.
Rene Boy Abiva
Our friends from Ifugao is requesting for support and solidarity in bringing to the attention of the Philippine government to address the worsening political vilification including threats to indigenous human rights activists and development workers. Recently, some of our colleagues working with the Ifugao Peasant Movement received threats with a photo of a blanket used by Ifugaos for the dead. It can be recalled that our colleague and friend, William Bugatti, who is from Ifugao and has been working with indigenous communities was gunned down by unidentified men last year and his case remains unresolved to date. William Bugatti is the Regional Council member of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance-KARAPATAN, Regional Council member of the Cordillera People’s Alliance representing the Ifugao Peasant Movement, and the provincial coordinator of Bayan Muna partylist. Despite threats to his life and security, he diligently assisted political prisoners and other victims of human rights violations until the day he was assassinated. He is survived by his wife and sons.
Ifugao particularly Tinoc (my hometown) is currently facing issues on extractive energy projects (hydropower and geothermal) which has been a cause for division among the communities. The projects are small scale in nature but the equitable benefit sharing has not been ensured and the impacts have not been clearly shared and explained to the affected communities. A number of our community leaders in Tinoc including human rights workers in Ifugao were included in the target list of the military.
To express your support to end death threats and political vilification in Ifugao and the struggle of the indigenous communities there to defend their land and resources, colleagues from the Philippines are requesting everyone to take a selfie/group photo with a placard “nurture the environment and uphold human rights in Ifugao” or you can make your own then post to facebook. #defendIfugao here’s the facebook page of this event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1875391569352794/1875723905986227/ and here’s the page of the Ifugao Peasant Movement:https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009510050222.
A letter of concern addressed to relevant government officials in the Philippines will be circulated soon for your endorsement.