The 16 Tumandok leaders arrested were staunch defenders of their ancestral domain.
By EMILY VITAL
MANILA – The sixteen leaders and members of leaders and members of local indigenous group TUMANDUK who were arrested in December 30, 2020 simultaneous raids in Panay island are staunch defenders of their ancestral domain.
This is contrary to claims by Col. Orlando Edralin, deputy brigade commander of the 301st Brigade of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, that the 16 are members of Milisyang Bayan of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New People’s Army.
In a statement, Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women said that the nine killed and the 16 arrested in the simultaneous operations by the 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and Philippine National Police Region 6 in seven barangays in Calinog, Iloilo and ten in Tapaz, Capiz had long been red-tagged by state security forces.
Former TUMANDUK Chairperson Marevic Aguirre, who was initially reported missing, was surfaced in Tapaz Municipal Police Station. She and the 15 others were charged with illegal possession of firearms, ammunitions and explosives.
Aguirre is also a former barangay (village) head of Lahug and a municipal employee.
Also arrested was Aileen Catamin, former secretary general of TUMANDUK. She has also been vocal against the Jalaur mega dam and Pan-ay dam.
Others arrested were:
Marilyn Chiva of barangay Garangan, Calinog town in Iloilo, in Tapaz town, Capiz
Marilou Sumaria Catamin
Eleutricia Calbo Caro of barangay Roosevelt
Jucie Katipunan Caro, of barangayRoosevelt
Lauriano Castor, Jr.
Benito Caballero of barangay Masaroy in Calinog, Iloilo
Luisito Bautista Sr. of barangay Garangan
Rolando Diaz, Sr. of barangay Tacacayan, Tapaz
Rolen Caro Catamin of barangay Roosevelt;
Benny Pet Loraña of barangay Aglinab
Ferdinand Caspillo of barangay Acuña
Carlito Diaz of barangay Nayawan
Human rights group Karapatan said the evidence against the victims were planted.
Amihan called on the Duterte administration to immediately release the 16 Tumandok political prisoners.
“This is an authoritarian act, and we urge the people to condemn this wholesale violation of basic human rights, especially of marginalized sectors in the country,” Zen Soriano, Amihan national chairperson, said.
At least 500 residents have evacuated from their homes following the synchronized police and military operations, according to alternative news Panay Today.
In Tapaz, Capiz, checkpoints were established as Mayor Roberto Palomar ordered the Tapaz Security Forces (TSF) to ban journalists and non-residents from entering the town, according to alternative news outfit Panay Today.