Baguio City

Concerns raised as military seeks data on 67 Baguio NGOs

Sherwin de Vera

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Concerns raised as military seeks data on 67 Baguio NGOs
The city council rejects the Task Group Baguio commander’s request for information on non-governmental organizations

PASIG, Philippines – Human rights groups have sounded alarm bells over the military’s attempt to obtain information about more than 60 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Baguio City, expressing concern that this information could be used for further red-tagging and violations of civil and political rights.

In an August 15 letter, Task Group Baguio Commander Christopher Sab-it asked Baguio Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan for the “Annual Accomplishment Reports and Financial Statements of the sixty-seven (67) Non-Government Organizations” in the city for 2023. The colonel stated that these documents would serve as a reference for their program.

TGB is a counterinsurgency unit under the Army’s 5th Infantry Division tasked with implementing the Community Support Program (CSP), which is touted as a vital part of the government’s counterinsurgency efforts.


Olowan said the city council rejected the request and instead advised Sab-it to write to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the documents.

“I simply instructed the secretary of the [city council] not to provide financial statements to these individuals and to indicate in our letter that we do not possess a complete list,” he said.

The official also assured organizations that the city council is committed to protecting the privacy of their constituents, saying, “We cannot release these documents without permission from the organizations.”

“Even though these documents are public, we must also seek the organization’s consent. So, I believe the best way for them to obtain information is to contact those that are registered with the SEC or other relevant offices,” Olowan added.

He said group accreditation is meant to facilitate their involvement in Baguio’s Local Development Council and other government engagements, as mandated by the Local Government Code.

Rappler tried to contact TG Baguio using the provided number in the letter on August 29 and 31 but has not received a response.

Potential breach

Lawyer Ryan James Solano of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) in Baguio said the intention stated in the letter was vague and could potentially breach the right to privacy.

“(It is) unclear for what purpose they intend to use this information; the letter lacks clarity, and one could suspect their intentions, especially given the numerous red-tagged individuals and designated alleged terrorists without substantial basis,” he said.

Solano said, “There may be sensitive information that could be easily misused once released by the SP (Sangguniang Panlungsod) of Baguio. This is why we have data privacy laws in place to protect this information.”

Caselle Ton, spokesperson for the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance, expressed trust that the city council “would uphold its mandate to protect and defend the rights of its constituents.”

“With Baguio on its way to becoming a human rights city, such tactics from the military should not be tolerated in any way,” she added.

Meanwhile, Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of the human rights group Karapatan, urged local governments to “reject these types of requests that would make them complicit in rights violations and breaches of civil liberties.”

She wrote in an August 30 Facebook post that such a request violates “rights against surveillance and profiling, threats and intimidation, and red-tagging, as well as the fundamental right to organize and freedom of association.” These violations include several provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Palabay said, “We remind local governments of their duty to promote and protect human rights, and to always uphold civilian authority’s supremacy over the military.” –

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