“The fabricated charges against them have no merit at all, and all of the allegations are merely products of the AFP’s utak-pulbura imagination.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Gabriela Women’s Partylist Rep. Luz Ilagan and human rights group Karapatan denounced state forces for filing trumped-up charges against at least 23 Lumad leaders, child’s rights advocates and human rights defenders in Mindanao.
The charges were filed by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG), PNP-Alabel, soldiers of the 73rd Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) in separate complaints before the city prosecutor in Davao City, and before the provincial prosecutor in Malapatan and Alabel towns, Sarangani province.
In Davao city, the PNP-CIDG filed kidnapping, serious illegal detention and violations of Anti-Trafficking Act against 13 human rights workers, including those who are involved in the campaign to demilitarize Lumad schools, namely, Gabriela Southern Mindanao secretary general Mary Ann Sapar, and Salinlahi Alliance for Children secretary general Kharlo Manano, who are both part of the Save Our Schools Network.
The same charges were filed against Rev. Jurie Jaime of the Promotion of Church People’s Response-Southern Mindanao Region (SMR); Sheena Duazo, of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-SMR; Hanimay Suazo, secretary general of Karapatan-SMR; Tony Salubre, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-SMR; Rius Valle of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center-SMR; Jaja Necosia of Kilab Multimedia; Kerlan Fenagel, Sr. secretary general of the Lumad group Pasaka; Isidro Andao, spokesperson of Pasaka; Sr. Stella Matutina of the RMP, and John Does.
Manano told Bulatlat.com that they learned about the charges against them on July 9, but had not received any copy of the complaint.
In Sarangani, state forces filed charges of attempted murder, inciting to sedition, violations of the law for the protection of children, and International Humanitarian Law, against Rev. Allen Bill Veloso, chairperson of Karapatan-Socsksargen; and Pastor Sadrach Sabella, secretary general of Karapatan- Socsksargen and 10 others, namely: Lumad indigenous leaders Anelfa Gemilo, Lorna Mora and Junard Cayamba of Kaluhhamin, Lorencio Teo of Makasdalu, Nestor Masalon of Kafye de Lagad, Ryan Lariba of Bayan Socsksargen, UCCP Rev. Roger Rafalez, Marlo Magramo of Bayan Muna, Mercedes Arlene Alonzo and Marmar Cawan of Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services (Clans).
Ilagan lambasted the the CIDG for singling out those involved in the Save Our Schools campaign.
“They accused activist leaders and child rights advocates of trafficking and kidnapping Lumad children and families who have evacuated to Davao City, and in some instances, brought their appeal to government offices in Manila, to save Lumad schools from being occupied and damaged by AFP elements. These acts do not constitute trafficking or kidnapping,” Ilagan said.
Karapatan also said that in 2014 and this year, Suazo has experienced surveillance, threats and harassment from suspected elements of the 69th IBPA, which Karapatan had called the “Palparan battalion,” under Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, the erstwhile 10th Infantry Division chief, whom President Aquino picked to head the Philippine Army today.
Sabella, meanwhile, is reportedly on the military’s Order of Battle list.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said those charged have supported victims of human rights violations “who were killed, tortured and forcibly evacuated due to military operations of the 10th ID and the 73rd IB in Mindanao.”
“Because of this, they have been called ‘enemies of the state,’ repeatedly vilified, and are now facing reprisals because of their human rights work,” Palabay said.
Ilagan said that in November last year, the Save Our Schools Network brought their plight to the attention of the House of Representatives Committee on National Cultural Communities and also engaged the Department of Education in dialogues, including one held just last week. A dialogue was also held with Bishop Romulo Valles of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
The SOS network lobbied in the Senate last week and received positive response from the offices of Senators Grace Poe and Pia Cayetano. There is also a pending resolution at the Senate, which was filed by Sen. Miriam Santiago to investigate the shutdown of Lumad schools in Mindanao.
The Save our Schools campaign was launched in 2012. Last year, students and teachers of the Lumad schools joined the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao to bring their campaign to the National Capital Region.
The SOS Network is composed of different groups from Mindanao regions, and Manila-based groups such as the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and Salinlahi.
Ilagan said the trumped-up charges are meant to harass, scare and demoralize Lumad and child rights advocates who have effectively exposed the human rights and international humanitarian law violations committed by the AFP in Mindanao under Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.
Palabay said they will hold the Armed Forces of the Philippines accountable for any further violation against the rights of the said human rights defenders.