By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Nieves Lizada was emotional as she narrates what they had to go through as they searched for her missing daughter, Mary Joyce, who is currently being held by the military at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.
Mary Joyce was with Arnulfo “Ompong” Aumentado, both indigenous people’s rights advocates documenting rights violations, when they were accosted by the members of the 4th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in barangay Teresita, Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro last April 25. After a few days, they were presented as New People’s Army (NPA) fighters.
Lizada said that since the beginning of their search, military troops have been stationed in Mindoro.
When they had finally confirmed that Mary Joyce and Aumentado were held by the military, Nieves said they were given a runaround. They were repeatedly told to come the next day. On May 2, the parents of Mary Joyce, along with human rights lawyer Jun Oliva of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), were allowed to briefly see Mary Joyce and Aumentado.
“I saw the fear in her eyes . I asked her about her condition but she would not talk and instead looked around and would not answer me,” Nieves said in a forum on June 6.
On the same day, peasant rights group Tanggol Magsasaka also launched Free Mary Joyce Lizada and Arnulfo Aumentado Campaign Network.
Lead convenors include Tanggol Magsasaka-TK and Free Our Sisters in coordination with the Katipunan ng mga Lehitimong Magsasaka at Mamamayan sa Lupang Ramos (KASAMA-LR), Katribu, Amihan, Rural Women’s Advocate, family and friends of Lizada and Augmentado among others.
In a statement, Tanggol Magsasaka expressed grave concern over the series of arrests and terrorist-tagging of indigenous peoples and peasant advocates who have chosen to serve the marginalized sectors.
“We call for the full respect of their rights including the strict observance of their right to due process. If there are no clear cases against Lizada and Aumentado, they should be released without conditionalities,” Tanggol Magsasaka said.
Nieves thanked the groups who are with them in their quest to free Mary Joyce and Aumentado.
Mary Joyce and Aumentado are both organizers of BALATIK (Bond and Strength of Indigenous Peoples in Southern Tagalog). Her family is among the agrarian reform farmer-beneficiaries in Lupang Ramos in Dasmarinas, Cavite while Aumentado, 66, is a veteran peasant organizer in Southern Luzon.
Both are also members of cultural groups in Southern Tagalog. According to Orly Marcellana of Tanggol Magsasaka-Timog Katagalugan, Mary Joyce is a member of a cultural group in Lupang Ramos in Dasmariñas, Cavite while Aumentado is a singer and writer.
“He is from Infanta, Quezon where he founded the cultural group Teatro Kabataan. In 2000, Ompong founded Punlaan ng Lahing Anakpawis, also a cultural group. These groups founded by Ompong also conducted discussions on human rights in communities and were also active in joining fact-finding missions and quick reaction teams in areas with reported rights violations,” Marcellana said.
Cathy Estavillao, secretary general of peasant women’s group Amihan, meanwhile, said, “We lament that Lizada and Aumentado will add to the growing number of political prisoners incarcerated by the regime. We demand their immediate release,” Estavilllo said.
Tanggol Magsasaka said there are 769 political prisoners nationwide, 40 of whom were arrested under Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s administration. Of this number, up to 90 of the political prisoners are sickly and 72 are elderly. (RTS, RVO)