A press conference was held by delegates of the Community Mercy Outreach (CMO) last Friday, March 4, in response to the military bombings and the “outright denial of human rights” that occured in the Brgy. Sta. Clara in the Cagayan Region.
News from Janaury reported that around 30 bombs were thrown by Armed Forces of the Philippines in the area. From 3 am until noon, police raided Sta. Clara and adjacent barrios, who reportedly encountered members of the New People’s Army.
Addressing this, 66 participants of the CMO volunteered to offer humanitarian and psychosocial aid to the bombing victims. However, the press conference delegates reported that when they arrived, a blockade was formed by “people believed to be agents of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).” This eventually led to the illegal arrest of Agnes Mesina, regional coordinator of the Makabayan Coalition in Cagayan Valley.
Call to action
The group seeks justice for the harassment, unlawful arrests, aerial bombings, and vilification of farmers, and further calls for the defunding of NTF-ELCAC.
Representatives from Katinnulong Daguiti Umili iti Amianan also demand for an independent inquiry into the bombings, as well as the continuation of delivering basic services to the people of the locale.
Meanwhile, Mesina implores the end of impunity. “We call on all democratic and patriotic government officials, people of Cagayan Valley, and the Filipino people to work together to end impunity. Let us hold the people who carried out indiscriminate bombings accountable,” she vocalized.
Condemming the bombings and Mesina’s detention, Christian Marcaida of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center echoed the concerned groups’ calls and stated that the government should extensively examine the Anti-Terror Law, particularly the red-tagging that it “glorifies”.
“Kinukundena namin ang itong hindi makatarungan na pangyayari ng nasa awtoridad. Kami lamang ay tumutulong. Sana ay huwag pigilan ang aming programa,” Pastor Allan Manuel of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines also expressed.
(We are condemning the unjust acts committed by those in authority. We were just helping, so we’re hoping this doesn’t halt our program.)
The League of Filipino Students Cagayan Valley also call for the end of tagging activists as terrorists, stating that that is only built on “false information.”
Call for assistance
Despite the setbacks and threats faced by the delegates, CMO delegates remain firm in returning to the community. Their resolve to give aid to the victims of the aerial bombings in the region is now “stronger than ever.”
“Yes, babalik kami dahil ‘yung affected communities ‘di naman nakita and ‘di namin nakausap,” affirmed Mesina.
(Yes, we will go back to the affected communities since we weren’t able to see and to talk to them.)
While there is much to be planned, the group’s next steps are to coordinate once again with the area’s local government unit. Mesina also stated that plans for their return visit are now aimed to uncover the truth—the reason for the bombings and the nature of the impact of the bombings.
Mesina emphasized that the continuous denial to humanitarian access for the victims of the bombings, such as the donation of food and medical aid along with the psychosocial services offered by the outreach, casts a shadow of doubt on the true effects of the bombings.
With the incidents in the area, CMO is determined to also call for volunteers and media outlets to join the outreach to further uncover the truth and to give light to real occurences in the region.