‘Abduction,’ ‘Harassment’ of Cotabato NGO Workers Riles Swiss Group

Nov. 12, 2006

A prestigious Swiss development organization protested last week the Nov. 4 abduction of Lourilie Naiz and Mary Bernadette Solitario, staff workers of the Disaster Response Center Inc. (DIRECT) while on field work in Tulunan, North Cotabato. Soldiers from the 27th and 39th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army allegedly detained and interrogated the two women, and ordered them to strip. D.L. Mondelo of Bulatlat reports from Amsterdam.

AMSTERDAM – A prestigious Swiss organization that has been extending assistance to several development organizations in the Philippines has written a strong letter to the Philippine embassy in Switzerland to protest the recent arrest of two Filipino relief workers.

The Bern-based Theresa-Ladeli Jegenstorf, a rare recipient in 2001 of a Presidential Award from then President Joseph Estrada for its outstanding development work in the Philippines, asked the Philippine ambassador in Switzerland to intervene in the arrest of the two relief workers belonging to its partner agency.

Aside from this, the Theresa Ladeli has further asked the intervention of the Swiss embassy in Manila, the Swiss Foreign Affairs Department and the Swiss Department of Justice on the case of the two relief workers.

The two arrested women, Lourilie Naiz, 22, and Mary Bernadette Solitario, 21, staff workers of the Disaster Response Center, Inc. (DIRECT) in Sarangani Province, were abducted last Nov. 4 while on field work in Tulunan, North Cotabato by the 27th and 39th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. They were taken to a military safehouse where they were interrogated, ordered to take off their clothes, and forced to admit to being members of the Communist Party of the Philippines New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA). The two, who suffered shock during their interrogation, are detained at the Tulunan Police Station.

Theresa Ladeli spokesperson, Ms. Monika Baumann, said DIRECT is a disaster relief NGO (non-governmental organization) that they have been supporting for more than 10 years. She said DIRECTs work involves helping victims of landslides, typhoons, floods or bombings by the Philippine military in the mountains of Mindanao island.

I know all those people and they are highly committed to help all those suffering people. They work day and night to give relief, food and shelter, Baumann stressed in their letter.

I count on your help, on your intervention, that justice will be given to those women, that your military will stop (harassing) their own people, that your President Gloria Arroyo will stop this crazy all out war!, Baumannn said. Bulatlat

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