[One of the many farming communities assisted by RMP-NMR Inc in Maramag, Bukidnon. RMP-NMR Inc is a founding member of ASCENT. PHOTO by WInbel Mordino Visitacion]
Seventeen development and humanitarian NGOs gathered in a national consultation to form the ASCENT network. These NGOs have been implementing community-based health programs, disaster risk reduction programs, managing social enterprises, alternative schools, and other socioeconomic initiatives benefiting the poorest of the poor. However, instead of getting the recognition and support of the government, their programs and workers are being attacked by state security forces and paramilitary groups.
“We have been subjected to intense surveillance, harassment, threats, and trumped-up charges,” said ASCENT spokesperson Estrella Catarata.
“With the national elections just around the corner, we, humanitarian and development workers want to know what is in store for us under the next administration.”
“It is curious that under the guise of ‘daang matuwid,’ humanitarian and development projects and workers --the very same forces that bring much needed socio-economic services and projects to far-flung communities long neglected by this government -- are being attacked, if not killed.”
“Soldiers and members of paramilitary groups also sowed intrigues in the communities we have been working with. They also red-tagged these much-needed humanitarian and development projects, which included programs on food security, livelihood development, and in building shelter for disaster-stricken communities.”
“But worse, our humanitarian and development workers are being killed.”
Among the cases that were highlighted is the brutal killing of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), last Sept. 1. He was killed along with two tribal leaders. Other cases are that of Willem Geertman, executive director of Alay Bayan Inc., who was shot on July 4, 2012 and development workers Engineer Fidela Salvador and William Bugatti who were killed in 2014.
To this day, no one has been held accountable for these killings.
“With these continued attacks to date, we dare ask the next administration: Are you going to continue the bloody ‘daang matuwid’ that has put our lives and limbs on the line? Are you going to continue paying lip service to our role and grudgingly accommodate us on a token basis? Or will you finally engage us in a meaningful consultative, productive, and participative dialogue and cooperation as part of the democratic process? “
05 May 2016
Spokesperson, ASCENT Network (Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network) 09985416821
c/o PNFSP office @ # 19 Magiting corner Mapagkawanggawa Streets, Teachers’ Village, Quezon City