“Even members of their mercenary force like Ime, an indigenous Dumagat and an active Cafgu, experience harassment. For P4,500, the Army gets to step on indigenous people’s rights and dignity.”
By JUSTIN UMALI
SANTA ROSA, Laguna – A member of paramilitary group is currently detained by the 80th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army on accusations of being a New People’s Army (NPA) member since March 1.
Elmer “Ime” Peñamente, 33 and a father of two, was captured and interrogated by soldiers of the 80th IB after being given false pretense of going on duty. Peñamente has been an irregular member of Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) since 2014; a decision he made to earn P4,500 monthly and help sustain his family.
Peñamente is a native of barangay Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal, but has since moved to sitio Quiborosa, barangay Magsaysay, Infanta, Quezon – ground zero for the China-funded Kaliwa Dam project being opposed by the indigenous Dumagat living there.
The NPA has also openly stated its opposition to the dam and has vowed to take action against its construction. Ironically, Peñamente is himself a Dumagat, and a Cafgu member tasked to combat the NPA.
According to Peñamente’s wife Arlyn, Peñamente received orders from Commander Graciano Octa of the 59th Infantry Battalion on February 26. “Two days later, I asked his fellow irregulars where he was and they said he was stationed at [Brgy.] Pinugay [Tanay, Rizal]. They also said Octa asked her to send extra clothes for him,” she recalled.
But on March 1, Peñamente returned sustaining injuries and told his family to flee before the soldiers find them. Arlyn sought the help of her family and their tribal chieftain, Rodrigo Piston.
According to Piston, Peñamente was brought to the 80th IBPA headquarters in Camp Capinpin, barangay Pinugay, where he was interrogated and accused of being an NPA. Peñamente was then brought to an area near Kilometer 92 where he thought he would be killed. Peñamente fought back and escaped. After talking to his family, he also sought help from Octa but the latter instead handed him over to the 80th IBPA and returned to Camp Capinpin, where he is currently detained.
Piston and other members of Peñamente’s tribe tried to recover Peñamente but were barred by a certain Colonel Calil of the 80th IBPA. On their insistence, they were allowed a short visit where Peñamente was “visibly shaken, dazed, and said only ‘Yes’,” according to Piston.
Calil also threatened Piston and other members of Peñamente’s tribe “should another problem happen in the Kaliwa Dam.”
Rights group Karapatan – Southern Tagalog condemned the AFP’s treatment of Peñamente. “Even members of their mercenary force like Ime, an indigenous Dumagat and an active Cafgu, experience harassment. For P4,500, the Army gets to step on indigenous people’s rights and dignity,” Karapatan ST spokesperson Kyle Salgado added.
Salgado also said that was part of the Duterte administration’s “war against the people” under Executive Order 70. “The military is forcing their victims to surrender as NPA to steal the funds under the E-CLIP [Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program],” he said. The Armed Forces of the Philippines has been accused of using the E-CLIP program for corruption and land-grabbing.
Although no charges have been filed against Peñamente, the 80th IBPA is insisting on detaining him for “attempted murder”, referring to the March 1 incident in kilometer 92.