The Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC) and its member NGO’s condemn and hold accountable the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the extrajudicial killing of our friend, co-worker and comrade Engr. Fidela Bugarin Salvador; on or about September 5, 2014 during a military operation in Lacub, Abra. Delle as she is fondly called by everybody was in Lacub for monitoring disaster and socio-economic projects of the Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services (CorDis RDS). Engr. Fidela B. Salvador is a committed development worker, a Project Consultant, a civilian and a non combatant; and not a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) as claimed by the AFP.
Engr. Fidela Salvador is married, a mother of three and an activist. She has dedicated her life in serving the neglected and marginalized communities of the Cordillera. As an activist, Delle has braved the hardship of development work in different areas of the region despite the continued threat, harassment and persecution from State forces, experienced by activists working for social change. Delle is an activist who fights for the rights and welfare of the oppressed.
Delle is an engineer of the people and an activist advocating for the advancement of science and technology in the service of, and controlled by the people. Her latest engagement was the facilitation of rehabilitation projects for victims of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng under the Philippine Tropical Cyclone Emergency Response Project (PTCERP) and Philippine Tropical Cyclone Shelter and Livelihood Response Project (PTCSLRP) under CorDis-RDS covering Bokod in Benguet, Bontoc in Mountain Province and Lacub in Abra. Earlier in1996-2003, Delle was a community organizer in Itogon, Benguet under the Women Workers Program (WWP) and Mining Communities Development Center (MCDC). From Itogon, her work widened to other indigenous communities in Benguet under the Alyansa dagiti Pesante ti Taeng Kordilyera (APIT-Tako) from 2003-2008. She is a Consultant of the TAWID Consulting services for Indigenous Peoples Organizations and NGOs. Her work horizon further expanded to Northern Luzon under the Regional Development Center – Katinnulong dagiti Umili ti Amianan (Kaduami –Regional Development Center – Northern Luzon) in the Social Enterprise Product Development Program (SEPDP) where she coordinated the advocacy for bio fertilizer and traditional varieties of crops.
Such unwavering selflessness in serving the poor has been ended by the State with her untimely death in the hands of heartless State forces. Her body was brutally desecrated as it bore many signs of torture not only from bullets but from hard objects used in hitting different parts of her body. She experienced extreme pain before her death as seen from the photos taken by the team who retrieved her cadaver.
The extra judicial killing of many activists and civilians espousing genuine change has been part of CIA guided State policy on counter insurgency now under the guise of OPLAN BAYANIHAN. Under Oplan Bayanihan, the government and state forces no longer differentiate armed from unarmed citizens. The state forces even tag activist and legal people’s organization especially communities and civilians who are united in opposing destructive development projects of the government as enemies of the state.
The brutal extra judicial killing of Engr. Fidela Salvador shows how state forces are the greatest violators of human rights and has no respect for the life and dignity of people. This has been a continuing trend as the government is coddling perpetrators, but the people will not be shaken by this act and will continue to rise up against the continuing human rights violations, militarization of communities and extrajudicial killing of civilians and activists.
We in the CDPC family strongly believe that the brutal killing of Engr. Fidela Salvador was not incidental. It was done with purpose to silence protest and struggles for justice, as we similarly believe that Noel Vista was also extrajudicially killed by the soldiers who forcibly seized him and another civilian, Nicasio Asbukan, from a group of 24 civilians who were coerced by the 41st IB as human shields in the conduct of their operation. Viste and Delle, both dead, were brought by AFP helicopter in Barbarit, Lagangilang, Abra. Nicasio Asbukan was turned over to the chief of police of Lacub in a state of shock. He manifests symptoms of acute stress disorder (ASD). The killing of Delle and Viste and the mental state of Asbukan expose the fascist nature and continuing impunity of the government’s armed forces.
With these and other incidents, we in the CDPC family are convinced that killing activists and civilians providing humanitarian services to marginalized communities or retrieving the wounded or the remains of NPA casualties of war who are their kin/ kailyan/katribo, remains a policy in the government’s counter insurgency program especially now under OPLAN BAYANIHAN. In the ongoing civil war in the Philippines, only the New People’s Army(NPA) are the armed combatants of the downtrodden and oppressed against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). International Humanitarian Law (IHL) distinguishes between combatants and non combatants, and the AFP does not as again seen in this case.
As we painfully grieve for the killing of Delle, we also persist in seeking for justice. To facilitate our quest for truth and justice, we call for cessation of AFP operations in Abra. Impartial and thorough investigation of the circumstances behind the killing of Delle and subsequent accountability of the perpetrators can best be undertaken when AFP troops are withdrawn from the area. We call for AFP compliance on CAHRIHL- Comprehensive Agreement on Human rights and International Humanitarian law in dealing with armed conflict in the Philippines. As a wider arena of addressing numerous human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian laws by State security forces, we likewise call for the immediate resumption of the peace talk between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines. Peace negotiation can pave the process of reviewing and affirming agreements under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws.
For Reference: Imelda D. Tabiando (09998849880)
Spokesperson, DEFEND! Stop Harassment and Persecution of Activist and NGO Workers.
September 10, 2014