The Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network in the Philippines (ASCENT) deplores the harassment of humanitarian aid workers under ASCENT’s member organization Alay Bayan-Luson, Inc. (ABI) by military personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). ABI is a member organization of ASCENT, and is involved in humanitarian aid and disaster risk reduction programs in different parts of Central Luzon. ABI’s work has benefitted thousands of Filipinos who would otherwise have been vulnerable to natural or man-made disasters had it not been for ABI’s intervention. Yet ABI and its development workers are continuously being harassed by forces of the AFP, branding ABI as Communist-influenced without even a shred of proof to support their claims.
In July 3, 2012, ABI’s executive director Wilhem Geertman, a Dutch missionary, was killed by motorcycle-riding men allegedly connected to the AFP. Harassment and intimidation of ABI’s workers persisted throughout the years. The latest incident of harassment happened recently. During Typhoon Lawin, ABI was mobilizing its members and volunteers in conducting relief operations for several typhoon-affected communities. ABI members learned that in a Bugkalot people’s community in Nueva Vizcaya, the Philippine Army has been asking information about ABI and has been interrogating members of the disaster preparedness organziation which ABI helped found.
ABI was forced to cancel its scheduled relief operations to the said community in Nueva Vizcaya out of fear for the safety of its humanitarian aid workers. This cancellation has negatively affected the lives of community members of the three barangays in Nueva Vizcaya ABI was supposed to serve, making them more vulnerable to the consequences brought about by typhoon Lawin all because of the military’s Oplan Bayanihan that continues to threaten the lives not only of ordinary citizens but of development workers as well.
ASCENT demands that the AFP rein in its forces and stop harassing ABI and other development organizations that provide service to the Filipino people in far-flung communities. ASCENT also urges the Philippine government to immediately scrap Oplan Bayanihan as this poses a direct threat to the lives of development workers and organizations such as ABI.
Stop Harassment of Development Workers!
Renmin Crisanta Vizconde