“Kim Gargar was caught in a crossfire between the 67th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the New Peoples Army while undertaking research in connection with rehabilitation efforts in Cateel town, which was severely affected by Typhoon Pablo in 2012.” – Agham
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — “My brother is really just a scientist, he’s a peoples’ scientist,” said Ivy Gargar, younger sister of Kim Gargar. Her voice broke as she appealed to government authorities for the swift release of her brother. Speaking at a press conference, Oct. 5, Ivy shared that she and her brother are close; they talk about almost everything under the sun and that there is no way her brother could have been those things the Philippine military is accusing him of. The press conference was called by the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People or Agham, of which Kim Gargar is a member.
Kim Gargar, 34, is currently detained at the Mati Provincial Jail in Davao, southern Philippines.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) claimed on Thursday that the “captured” University of the Philippines Professor was a member of the New People’s Army.
A magna cum laude graduate of BS Physics who taught at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, at the Mapua Institute of Technology and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Gargar is regarded by his colleagues in Agham as “a bright boy from an underprivileged family in Iligan who treasures his scientific education and views it not just as a tool to further his personal gains but to help develop technologies for national development. “ Gargar took part in environmental investigative missions and undertook studies on appropriate technologies for community needs. His latest undertaking before being “falsely arrested” was trying to help Typhoon Pablo victims to assess and cope with its aftermath.
The day Gargar was “arrested,” or “captured,” a firefight between state troops and members of the New Peoples’ Army reportedly occurred less than two kilometres from where Gargar and his colleagues were working.
Lt. Colonel Krishnamurti Mortela, commander of the 67th Infantry Battalion Commanding Officer, said in a statement that “Gargar was captured by the troops who were pursuing the rebels after a firefight in (Barangay) Aliwagwag, (Cateel, Davao Oriental).” Mortela said the troops pursuing the guerrillas found Gargar “wounded” and “unconscious while clutching a rifle 200 meters away from the encounter site”.
Gargar’s head wound was reportedly stitched at the Davao Oriental provincial hospital where he was brought by state troops for treatment, the military statement said. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command Commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III claimed last Thursday their handling of “Gargar is an example of how soldiers value and respect human rights.”
But based on statements of the people with Gargar, if that were the case, then the military should have released Gargar by now.Both the Panalipdan (Defend) Mindanao, which is hosting Gargar’s temporary stay in the area and his colleagues in Manila from Agham said Gargar was in fact wrongfully accused and as such, “illegally detained.”
Fabricated charges vs scientist
According to Gargar’s lawyer, Joel Mahinay from the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao, the charges keeping Gargar in jail right now “are fabrications heaped on Gargar by the military after their encounter with the NPA.”
Mahinay said Gargar explained that the reported encounter between the NPA and government troops in Aliwagwag last Monday happened 1.5 kilometers away from where he was found by the soldiers.
In Manila, Dr. Giovanni Tapang of AGHAM saidthe military “planted evidences” to back up their claim that they had found firearms with Gargar.
“Gargar was conducting a scientific study on the impact of Typhoon Pablo in that area, which is intended to help in the rehabilitation and reforestation plans for Davao Oriental by Balsa Mindanao,” Mahinay said. In Saturday’s press conference in Manila, CEC executive director Ces Quimpo said as much, explaining that after Gargar first visited the Pablo-ravaged site five months after the devastation — and saw that not much help and rehabilitation were being done — Gargar had tried his best to come back to the area. He went back to help Mindanao NGOs to assess the aftermath and determine how best to cope and rehabilitate the area, according to Quimpo.
Juland Suazo, Panalipdan spokerperson, said Gargar had joined Balsa Mindanao’s fact-finding and relief mission to the Typhoon-Pablo affected towns in Baganga, Davao Oriental last April that got stranded for one night after “harassments” by state security agents. (see article here)
Caught in the crossfire
“Kim Gargar was caught in a crossfire between the 67th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the New Peoples Army while undertaking research in connection with rehabilitation efforts in Cateel town, which was severely affected by Typhoon Pablo in 2012,” said Feny Cosico, secretary general of AGHAM.
Agham strongly condemned the “illegal arrest and detention of Gargar” who, they said, is clearly a victim of the AFP’s inability to discern civilians from armed combatants.
Gargar is not the first Filipino scientist to be at the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time for state troops. In November 2010, government soldiers fired at and killed renowned botanist Leonard Co and his two companions while the scientist was collecting plant samples in the Leyte forest. The military said the shooting was part of their operation.
Gargar’s colleague in Agham, Dr. Giovanni Tapang, said Gargar is being falsely accused by the military that he has joined the NPA and that he allegedly took part in at least two murders.
“Gargar may be a bright scientist, but he is not that bright that he could be in two places at one time,” Tapang said. He explained that Gargar was in the Netherlands until January this year. Gargar was taking his doctorate study specializing in Chronobiology, a branch of science dealing with biological rhythms and cyclic processes in living organisms, at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.
Appeals for Gargar’s rights, support to Filipino scientists
In a recent phone conversation with Kim Gargar, his sister Ivy shared that Kim cannot seem to disclose much because a soldier was with him the whole time. She said Kim “just doesn’t want us to worry.” But Gargar’s family and colleagues among patriotic scientists in the country said they cannot help but worry. Ces Quimpo of the Center for Environmental Concerns, an environmentalist organization working closely with Agham in various projects, said in the press conference that they worry for Gargar, as “he’s in the hands of the military who has a reputation for committing human rights violations.”
Gargar’s family and Agham called for the immediate release of Kim Gargar. They demanded that all charges against him be dropped so that he could continue practicing his life-long commitment to make science serve the needs of the people.
Gargar’s advocacy with Agham reportedly includes the promotion of a Peoples’ Science School in urban poor communities and the Science for the People Colloqium, a venue for scientists to share their research outputs on appropriate technology for community development.
As an environmental advocate, Gargar has reportedly joined environmental investigative missions on various issues such as the impact of cassava monocrop plantation in Isabela, the flooding study of the Buwaya River in Cordillera, and the monitoring of the issue of huge minespill caused by the failure of tailings impoundment of Philex mines in Benguet.
With reports from Davao Today,