June 24, 2024

An open letter to Mountain Province LGUs

Gawis ay agew ken dakayo ay mangidadaulo isnan provincial ya municipal governments di Mountain. Province. Palubusan yo saken ay ipadanun ken dakayo nan wada asnan nemnem ko kasilpo isnan mapaspasamak isnan ili tako. Esang ay anak ya bebsat yo ay iSagada ya Iyalab, Bontok. Ninserbi ak ay chairperson di Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA). Idwani et esang ay member di CPA Regional Advisory Council.
We wish to take exception to the request by the Department of Interior and Local Government provincial director of Mountain Province directed to the mayor of Sagada to declare the CPA persona non grata in the municipality. We hope that the DILG provincial director limited such directive to my hometown and not to all mayors of Mountain Province.
This request, we believe, is based on the unfounded branding of the CPA as a front organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA-National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which puts in real danger the lives and safety of innocent civilians. A well-calculated but irresponsible ploy to make local government units active instruments for witch-hunting and red-tagging, which can promote polarization in our communities. We think this is meant to silence conscientious critics of questionable state policies and programs that all responsible citizens ought to be concerned about. We find it intended to vilify, if not criminalize, people of goodwill. People whose only intention is to urge public officials like you to address issues of corruption and put a stop to ill-conceived policies and programs. People who care for our environment and strive to develop people’s livelihood.
The CPA and civic organizations that serve the people’s interests are also watchdogs for good governance. We do not deserve the relentless assaults by the state on democratic dissent and human rights that have escalated in this time of the pandemic.
We do not want to believe that civilian authority has surrendered all shred of independence to the priorities of an emergent police state. Declaring open legal organizations persona non grata is a definite move that constricts the democratic space, denies people from expressing legitimate grievances without fear of repression. And it shall certainly drive several individuals to adopt extreme measures to pursue their goals.
It is a fact of history in the Philippines and elsewhere that state repression fans civil unrest instead of quelling it. The gradual shrinking of the democratic space stifles dissent, leading to the erosion of a fragile democracy towards authoritarian rule. Violence, it is said, is the language of the unheard. And we challenge those in power to listen to the voices of the aggrieved instead of stifling it. It has been the role of the CPA to support the struggles of the poor and marginalized. There is nothing clandestine or illegal about the fact that we help empower them to stand for their rights.
Doesn’t that contribute to the development of informed and confident citizens in the task of nation-building?
We respectfully appeal to our LGUs to carefully consider the far-reaching implications of the request to declare the CPA and other progressive organizations persona non grata. Such declaration especially with the Terror Law certainly brings harm and danger to your anak, bebsat ya kailian who are members of the CPA wherever we are. On unfounded accusations, shall you allow this to happen? We urge you to reject this request.
An atmosphere of fear and suspicion is something we do not wish for our communities. We should object to anything that helps pave the way for arbitrary arrests and harassment of innocent civilians. The demonization of civic organizations and their advocates does not bode well for peace in our communities. It is a tactic that deserves the condemnation of all peace-loving citizens.
Instead of serving unwittingly as a platform to launch divisive propaganda, our LGUs can be centers of unity. LGUs can encourage their constituents to come together, listen to each other, and sort out their issues in open, democratic interaction. That is the essence of a civil democracy, which is part as well of our tradition as indigenous peoples of the Cordillera. Matotya tako tay maid tekteken.
Regarding the armed conflict between the government and belligerent insurgents, the CPA is committed to the resumption of the peace talks. There is nothing wrong when we ventilate issues and discuss the causes of the insurgency in peaceful arenas. The people do not engage in a war for its own sake. Let us build an environment and support mechanisms where we can freely ventilate the roots of the armed conflict as we search for peaceable solutions.
We reiterate that we are legal organizations working for the promotion of indigenous peoples rights and human rights. We launch campaigns in defense of ancestral land and protection of the environment. We provide appropriate technology and infrastructure to support local efforts of sustainable production and consumption. We are involved in development that benefits the IPs and rural communities. We are staunch critics of misplaced state policies and programs, and we have openly denounced the abuses of those who hold the reins of political power. But that does not make us terrorists, much less the enemies of the state.
We express our deep concern that in this time of the pandemic, we see the escalating and continuing attacks against progressive and militant organizations. We vehemently oppose the terror tagging of progressive organizations especially the CPA, and we urge our LGUs to turn down the request to declare them persona non grata for the sake of peace. — BEVERLY L. LONGID, CPA Advisory Council