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Rights workers claim military harassment

Groups claim threats made via mobile phone, surveillance

Rights workers claim military harassment
Health workers file complaint of military harassment before the Commission on Human Rights
Lyn Ramo and Artemio Dumlao, Baguio City
Philippines

March 18, 2011

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Human rights workers in the northern Philippines filed separate complaints on March 18 before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for alleged harassment perpetrated by the Philippine military. Milagros Ao-wat, 57, health programs desk coordinator of Community Health Education Services and Training in the Cordillera (CHESTCORE), said she wants to get justice for the "anxiety and anguish" brought about by the death threats she receives daily. Romellia Rasalan, executive director of CHESTCORE, said the threats are "shaking" Ao-wat who reported that military agents have been shadowing her. "She is not having good sleep and has difficulty eating," Rasalan said. Rosalinda Suyam, 27, a CHESTCORE worker, also reported that she has been receiving messages on her mobile phone accusing her of links to the communist revolutionary movement. The armed forces denied the alleged surveillance activities. Suyam, however, said she has been accused of being a member of the communist New People's Army after she joined a village meeting on health issues. She was later diagnosed to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. "We have been getting similar treatments from military and paramilitary men in Kalinga province," said Rasalan. She said the incidents of harassment alarmed her organization especially after the killing of Dr. Leonardo Co, a scientist who used to work with CHESTCORE. Co was killed in alleged crossfire between the Philippine military and communist rebels while conducting research in the province of Leyte. Lawyer Harold Kub-aron, regional director of the Commission on Human Rights, said his office "will verify these complaints and start investigating." PL13670.1645
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