Anti-mining activist from N. Vizcaya missing

A known anti-mining activist has been missing since August 21. The victim was last seen being forced into a police patrol car but authorities denied having custody of him.


MANILA – Amid increased police and military visibility in parts of Nueva Vizcaya where locals are resisting the mining operation of Australian Royalco in the Philippines, an anti-mining activist went missing after he was “arrested” and forced to board a police patrol car by at least six policemen.

Bryan Epa, 34, a member of Katribu party list, was “arrested” at around 9 p.m. on August 21 in Salvacion Dumlao Boulevard village, Bayombong town, Nueva Vizcaya. Alfonso Shog-oy, a village official, reportedly witnessed the incident.

According to a statement by Katribu, Shog-oy reportedly dropped Epa in the area because Epa was to get his bag from a colleague there. When Shog-oy came back to fetch Epa, he saw six policemen waiting in a patrol car. Three of the policemen alighted, and Shog-oy heard Epa asking the police why they were taking away his bag. The police then forced Epa into the patrol car, but the latter resisted and asked the police why he was being taken.

The witness related how he heard the policemen tell Epa he was being taken into custody because he looked ‘suspicious.’ Epa was reportedly punched in the stomach by two of the policemen, and when he tried to hold on to a store’s post, the policemen hit his hand hard with a police baton. The police then managed to force him into the waiting patrol car.

The following day, Shog-oy and lawyer Fidel Santos sought Epa at the police station, but they did not find him there. The police told them they released a detained person on the same night that Epa was arrested. But their records show it was a person named Felix Bacsa Jr., not Epa.

Epa’s whereabouts remain unknown.

Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp) said Epa is among the residents of Nueva Vizcaya opposing the entry of Australian mining company Royalco Philippines Inc. Epa is among the locals manning the barricades, set up since 2007 to prevent mining equipment from entering their lands.

Kamp expressed concern over Epa’s disappearance. There are still many unresolved cases of enforced disappearances among activists, it said in a statement.

“The climate of impunity in the Aquino administration is a breeding ground for grave human rights violations especially of those perceived as ‘enemies of the state,’ including those resisting mining operations,” said Piya Macliing Malayao, Kamp spokeswoman.

The group fears for the safety of Epa.

Kamp said there are 35 cases of extra-judicial killings of indigenous peoples in the three-year administration of President Aquino. Most of these killings, it said, were done in the context of community resistance against mines, plantations, or dams. “Leaders and members of local people’s organizations and their families are the usual targets of liquidation by state forces and paramilitary groups.”

Kamp said the police are liable for the disappearance of the anti-mining activist, because he was last seen in their custody. “Given the human rights situation in the Philippines and the brutality shown by the arresting police,” Malayao said “it bode ill for his fate.” Malayao said. (

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