Statement on the Harassment, Illegal Arrest and Detention of Sister Stella Matutina,
Maria Fe Matibo, Wenceslao Mapa and Gil Sentimales
We, members of the Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPS-HR) in British Columbia, Canada, express our outrage and disbelief at the harassment, illegal arrest, and detention of Sr. Stella Matutina of the Missionary Benedictine sisters and of Maria Fe Matibo, Wenceslao Mapa, and Gil Sentinales, all environmental advocates, last February 16, 2009 in Davao Oriental. Sr. Stella and her companions are members of the Panalipdan, a multi-sectoral alliance for environmental awareness and protection, firm in its anti-mining position and defense of the people's lands.
According to the Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN), Sr. Matutina and her companions were invited by the local officials of Taytayan, Cateel, Davao to talk to the community about environmental awareness and protection.
It is unfortunate that just when entire communities, institutions and individuals all over the world are searching for and working on solutions to environmental problems like global climate change that threaten our very survival as a nation and as a planet, the Philippine military, steeped in paranoia and shortsightedness, once again raises the “terrorist” or “communist” specter to justify detaining Sr. Matutina and company. In this case, officials of the 67th Infantry Battalion alluded to “fake nuns organizing people against the government,” and going as far as to say, “a nun’s place is in the convent.”
We are aware of the backdrop on which this overzealous defense of the government by the military is being played. Mindanao, like the rest of the Philippines, has been and continues to be sold one hundred per cent to foreign big business, foremost of which are mining and logging interests.
With their local partners, among them political and military bigwigs, and the Presidential family, these profit leeches reap the bonanza of the plunder of the national patrimony and could not care less about the pollution of the Philippine lands and rivers, and the deprivation of the people 's right to life and their resources.
We commend Sr. Matutina and her companions for fearlessly standing up for and with the people in the pursuit of justice and genuine development, in spite of the state’s terrorism that they face every single day. We give them our full support as they tread the dangerous path of working with the people in defense of their land and life.
We denounce the culture of impunity that is the hallmark of the government's Oplan Bantay Laya. Touted as the Arroyo regime's “counter insurgency” weapon, it is intended to silence dissent, terrorize the people, trample on their civil rights and liberties and eliminate (or disappear) activists, community organizers and nationalists. The Arroyo regime, its military and agents must be made to stop these gross human rights violations and be held accountable for them.
Justice for Sr. Stella Matutia, OSB and environmental activists. Stop Military Persecution of Church People. NO to large-scale Mining and Militarization.