On the abduction and death of Elena Tijamo, FARDEC staff, peasant rights advocate

September 2, 2021

Photo from ASCENT

September 7, 2021

The Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) mourns the death of Elena Tijamo, Program Coordinator of Farmers Development Center (FARDEC). We offer our deepest condolences to the colleagues and family that she left. Likewise, we express utmost condemnation of her abduction on June 13, 2020 last year by suspected state forces and the possibility that this is linked to her untimely death.

Elena’s abduction was among the cases that CPDG and other civil society groups cited in their petition to the Supreme Court last year against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020. The dubious circumstances around her death further underscores the urgency for judicial action against this dangerously repressive piece of legislation. It criminalizes development work, dissent, and criticism. Once fully operational, disappearances, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests against development workers and activists will be legitimized on the pretext of curbing terrorist activity or support.

Development workers are constantly under threat from the closing of civic and free spaces because of the current administration’s anti-democratic drift and counterinsurgency program. Last July 19, in the People’s Review of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 forum, FARDEC Officer-in-Charge Marianne Tagalo shared many experiences of their organization’s rights being violated since 2019, especially when the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict’s (NTF-ELCAC) smear propaganda went on full swing. These attacks greatly hampered FARDEC’s work and programs in farmer communities. They also caused great anxiety and distress among FARDEC staff and members.

Like the murders of human rights and community health worker Zara Alvarez, peasant leader Randall Echanis, and peace consultant Randy Malayao, it is highly possible that Tijamo’s death was at the hands of state security forces. Pres. Rodrigo Duterte enables them with his “Kill-Kill-Kill” mentality, billions of pesos in opaque confidential and intelligence funds, and blanket absolution and impunity.

It is shameful that while millions of poor Filipinos suffer the economic and health crisis of the pandemic, the administration keeps pouring even more resources into programs detrimental to people’s rights and counterproductive in combating COVID-19.

We members of civil society call for unity and indignation against these continuing attacks against people’s rights, demand justice and accountability, and press for the investigation of abuses under the government’s multi-billion peso NTF-ELCAC and counterinsurgency program. #