Humanitarian aid team mulls filing charges against Cagayan police


MANILA – Development workers who are part of the community outreach mission in Cagayan Valley last month are planning to press administrative and criminal charges against Cagayan police and others involved in the harassment of their team and in the illegal arrest of Agnes Mesina, Makabayan regional coordinator and 1Sambayan-Isabela convenor.

In a virtual press conference on Friday, March 4, members of the mission expressed their disappointment after authorities and some members of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) blocked the team from entering barangay Sta. Clara, Gonzaga, Cagayan last Feb. 28.

The team was composed of church people, indigenous peoples’ advocate organizations, health workers, children’s rights advocates, environmentalists, farmers, and human rights workers. They were supposed to provide humanitarian aid to the community affected by the aerial bombing last January.

Read: Rights group urges CHR to probe recent bombing in Cagayan, harassment of farmers in Bulacan

“Time and again, the Duterte administration in the past six years has repeatedly demonstrated its utter disregard for the right to life. Indiscriminate and aerial bombings to exterminate allegedly 40 armed revolutionaries is excessive in force and puts in danger the lives of hundreds of civilians not to mention the impact to their livelihood, mental health and the environment,” Mesina said.

She said locals counted more than 30 bombs, which were dropped in their community.

Pet Guzman of Katinnulong Daguiti Umili iti Amianan, Inc. (Kaduami) said that after the bombing, the residents whose main livelihood is farming in the mountains were reportedly barred from their farms.

“The lack of information and news regarding the incident is heartbreaking and outrageous. It is hard to fathom how they are being isolated after experiencing such horrible events without access to much-needed humanitarian aid,” Guzman said.

Agnes Mesina, Makabayan regional coordinator and 1Sambayan-Isabela convenor.

“If the state agents are claiming that it is a legitimate operation in the area, then, they don’t have any reason to stop any humanitarian and human rights organizations from delivering services and aid to the residents,” Guzman added.

Mesina also said that the continuous denial of humanitarian access to affected communities in the municipality of Gonzaga “cast a cloud of doubt over the true nature of the impact of the bombings to the Agta and the farming communities in the area.”

“The harassment of the outreach team, my illegal arrest and the similar attempts to arrest illegally four other members of the community outreach team, although very crude, is really part of the systematic effort to deny the people of Cagayan Valley and the entire nation of the truth behind indiscriminate bombings in the municipality of Gonzaga,” she said.

“Let us hold accountable those in power who disregard due process and violate the right to life,” she added.

Mesina was arrested for a murder charge which was already dismissed by a Davao del Norte court in July 2021. She was released a few hours later.

Mesina said they plan to go back to the area to provide humanitarian aid to the affected indigenous people and also to know the truth behind the aerial bombing. They also called for an independent investigation of the aerial bombings in the area.

Anti-terror law

Meanwhile, Mesina expressed fear that the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 “will create a more favorable condition for the current administration to deny access to humanitarian services, red-tagging and illegal arrests of activists along with other opposition groups and indiscriminate aerial bombings without being held accountable.”

“The Anti-terror law will be favorable for impunity. Instead we call on patriotic and democratic government officials, people of Cagayan Valley and the people to work together to end impunity. Let us hold accountable those who have carried out indiscriminate aerial bombings in Cagayan Valley and all other bombings in all parts of the country,” Mesina said. (RTS, RVO) (

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