Two child rights defenders harassed by suspected state agents
Desperate move to silence opposition vs continuing attacks on schools – Salinlahi
Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, a national alliance of children’s rights organizations and institutions, strongly condemned the harassment by suspected state agents against two (2) child rights advocates last Thursday night.
Madella Santiago RSW, Salinlahi chairperson and Save our Schools network spokesperson and Eilekrenes Manano RSW, Treatment and Rehabilitation Coordinator and case worker of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), one of Salinlahi’s member organizations, experienced harassment by four (4) men at around 7:30 in the evening of May 14.
Kharlo Manano, Salinlahi secretary-general narrated, “After having a meeting in our office, our colleagues were on their way to grab dinner at a nearby supermarket. One of our volunteers noticed that the man seating beside him at a waiting shed, which was across the spot where our colleagues hailed a tricycle, was using a device that seemed to be a radio. He heard the man saying ‘Nandito na sila (“They are already here”).’ A moment later, a white motorcycle driven by another man arrived and the man holding the device rode on it. These two men followed the tricycle that our colleagues rode on.”
“Alarmed and fearing for the safety of our colleagues, our volunteer sought the help of our other colleague. They immediately followed them at the supermarket to warn them and true enough, four (4) men were seen outside the establishment where our colleagues were. Our volunteer heard the two (2) men talking. One of them said, ‘Nasa loob pa sila, kumakain (they are still inside, eating),’ he further explained.
Meanwhile, Santiago and Manano noticed that the two (2) men outside wearing headsets were looking at them and one of them was trying to hide himself when he was noticed. The two immediately went back to the office while the two (2) men followed them still using their motorcycle. Minutes after reaching their office, the volunteer and other members of Salinlahi noticed that the motorcycle riding men returned and surveilled the office premises.
“This is a clear act of harassment! Salinlahi and CRC have been actively exposing and opposing government policies and programs that are not beneficial for Filipino children and their families. CRC has been documenting cases and providing services to children victims of human rights violations perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its para-military groups for almost three decades now. Meanwhile, Salinlahi, as the lead convener of the Save our Schools Network has been very vocal in opposing the increasing cases of military attacks and encampment on schools particularly in peasant and indigenous peoples’ communities,” opined Manano.
“We condemn the harassment that our colleagues have experienced! This desperate move by state agents aims to weaken our resolve in continuing to rally against military attacks on community schools. With school opening just around the corner, we know that the AFP and other paramilitary groups are on battle-ready mode to terrorize the schools of indigenous and peasant children,” Manano added.
The group also mentioned that the incident is part of Aquino government’s dirty scheme under Internal Peace and Security Plan aka Oplan Bayanihan to threaten and silence vocal critics, including rights advocates and activists.