As we celebrate International Human Rights Day on December 10, Tongtongan Ti Umili joins the various groups and members of the community in the campaign for Peace and Justice. We believe that genuine peace can be attained if the roots of unrest and dissent are addressed. Our collective effort should be directed at demanding from all levels of government to address the reasons for the absence of peace. The quality of life of the greater majority of people in Baguio City and the Cordillera has deteriorated rapidly in recent years. The Aquino government has responded, not with pro-people policies and respect for the self-determined development of the indigenous people, but with measures that have led to gross human rights violations. Harassments, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances are still prevalent, especially in the communities in the countryside.
Right to Livelihood is answered with POSD Brutality
Last June 24 this year, Baguio ambulant vendor Oscar Caranto was falsely accused of assaulting a Public Order and Safety Division (POSD) vehicle and was dragged to their market headquarters in Block 3. He was mauled by not less than six POSD personnel that led to his death on July 4. After this incident, the perpetrators were merely removed from this division. They were not held accountable for the crime. The POSD is under the Office of the City Mayor, and has a long list of brutal campaigns of demolition and confiscation of meagre sources of livelihood of honest, hardworking people in the public market
Right to Sustainable Development is answered with Environmental Degradation
The city of Baguio is confronted with a wide range of environmental problems. The local government has allowed big real estate developers to wantonly take over the remaining prime lands, regardless of the fragile state of the environment. The wanton cutting of trees goes on unabated, posing a danger to future stability of the already endangered topography of the city. Worse, the top lawmaker of the city is himself the culprit in the devastation of a large portion of Cabuyao in Mt. Sto. Tomas to give way for the development of his so-called ecological park. For years and decades back, the Sto. Tomas area has fallen to wide environmental degradation despite it being declared a Forest Reserve. Individual and capitalist interests have prevailed, while our environment continues to be destroyed. The people of Baguio are not properly consulted about crucial issues that bear impact on their daily survival as resources continue to dwindle. We fear for the right of the future generation to a sustainable life if capitalist greed is not stopped.
Human Rights Defenders are Silenced with Death in the Cordillera Region
This year, six cases of extra-judicial killings were committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the region. William Bugatti, Eddie Ligiw, Fermin Ligiw, Licuben Ligiw and Engr. Delle Salvador were brutally killed due to their political affiliations, and in the defense of human and collective rights, while Noel Viste was coerced as a guide in a military operation and was murdered. All these were done by the AFP under their Oplan Bayanihan program.
Tongtongan ti Umili believes that peace can come to our city and the Cordillera IF the causes of people’s unrest are addressed. Military might and bureaucratic power are not the answers to poverty and joblessness. Impunity and injustice must come to an end. Human rights must be upheld and the collective will of the people respected. Not only today, but at all times under a government that puts the interest of the people as a primary agenda.