Burial shroud in the mail - Ifugao NGO workers receive death threats

By Arthur L. Allad-iw, Northern Dispatch - www.interaksyon.com/article/110379/burial-shroud-in-the-mail--ifugao-ngo-workers-receive-death-threats
Date of publication: 
12 May, 2015

BAGUIO CITY — Five workers of a nongovernmental organization in Ifugao province have asked police to investigate death threats they have received and to identify those responsible.

Human rights advocates in the Cordillera condemned the threats against Brandon Lee, Connie Hapulon, Claudine Panayo, Fernando Alikes Jr. and Billy Carty of the Ifugao Peasant Movement, saying these were part of heightening attacks on activists and development workers in Ifugao.

In the letter-complaint they submitted recently to the Lagawe, Ifugao police, the NGO workers said they all received brown manila envelopes containing a photo of a woven Ifugao blanket used to shroud the dead and what they described as the “dire” caption: “Gray May, June Gloom, No Sky July.”

In their complaint, they said the rectangular cloth, which was placed on the ground, approximated the dimensions of a grave.

Lee, Panayo and Carty were among the IPM organizers, community leaders and officials who were earlier accused of supporting the New People’s Army in an apparent smear campaign through social media.

Cordillera People’s Alliance secretary general Abigail Anongos slammed what she called the continuing vilification of community leaders and organizers of the IPM, the CPA’s provincial affiliate in Ifugao.

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, in an alert, said political vilification is a violation of people’s basic right to freely express their political beliefs and join organizations.

“We are alarmed and convinced that the intensity of threats and political vilifications are serious warnings of actual arrest, detention and graver forms of human rights violations,” CHRA’s alert read, as they pointed out that two NGO workers were also incarcerated in Ifugao on fabricated cases.

Reached for comment, Ifugao police director John Colino said: “We are still investigating those who are behind this cowardly act in coordination with IPM.”

While he said there have been no indications of impending physical harm against the IPM workers, Colino acknowledged that the picture of the blanket was very offensive to Ifugao custom.

A copy of the complaint was also furnished Governor Dennis Habawel, Representative Teddy Baguilat and lawyer Harold Kub-aron of the Commission on Human Rights.