From: Front Line Defenders <urgentaction@frontlinedefenders.org>
Date: Wed, Apr 1, 2015 at 8:30 PM
Subject: Judicial harassment of indigenous peoples’ rights defenders

On 26 March 2015, land and indigenous peoples’ rights defenders Messrs Jomorito Goaynon, Julieto Tawide Gomez, Reyjoy Precioso and Junrey Precioso Manlikayan, as well as Ms Melissa Amado Comiso, Ms Verginia Saguitan Tugay and Ms Tina Julieta Tawide Gomez, announced that charges had been filed against them. The human rights defenders face accusations of having “convinced” the Banwaon tribe community to evacuate their homes in San Luis, Agusan del Sur, Mindanao – charges that the community deny.

1 April 2015
Philippines – Judicial harassment of indigenous peoples’ rights defenders
On 26 March 2015, land and indigenous peoples’ rights defenders Messrs Jomorito Goaynon,
Julieto Tawide Gomez, Reyjoy Precioso and Junrey Precioso Manlikayan, as well as Ms
Melissa Amado Comiso, Ms Verginia Saguitan Tugay and Ms Tina Julieta Tawide Gomez,
announced that charges had been filed against them. The human rights defenders face
accusations of having “convinced” the Banwaon tribe community to evacuate their homes in San
Luis, Agusan del Sur, Mindanao – charges that the community deny.

Jomorito Goaynon is the Chair of the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization of Northern
Mindanao, and Tina Julieta Tawide Gomez is the Media Officer of Kahugpungan sa mga
Lumadnong Organisasyon sa Caraga (Kasalo), a regional alliance of Lumad peoples groups in
Caraga. Verginia Saguitan Tugay is the leader of the grassroots indigenous organisation
Tagdumahan, which has been campaigning against the entry of large-scale mining ventures into
their ancestral domain. Melissa Amado Comiso is a member of the Coordinating Body of the Rural  Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Minanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR). Jomorito
Goaynon, Julieto Tawide Gomez, Verginia Saguitan Tugay, Melissa Amado Comiso, Tina Julieta
Tawide Gomez and Reyjoy Precioso work to defend indigenous rights and led a campaign calling
for the military to leave San Luis, where the army was reportedly committing various human rights violations against members of the Lumad indigenous community, including the unlawful occupation of their homes.

The charges were filed by a member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) of
the 26th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The human rights
defenders believe the petition to have been filed in response to the return of approximately 969 members of the indigenous peoples community to San Luis on 21 March 2015, although it is dated 23 February 2015. The Lumad community members returned three days after the military
announced that it would leave the town following negotiations with the above-mentioned human
rights defenders. Reportedly, between 23 and 24 January 2015, in protest at the human rights
violations being committed by the army in San Luis, over 900 members of the Lumad community
had evacuated from the villages of Kimambukagyang, Tabon-tabon, Tabanganan, Nakadayas,
Pig-ulingan, Mimpalaos, Maputi, Kandiisan, Tambo, KM 48 and Sitio Agduka to Barangay Balit,
San Luis. Around 115 members of the Banwaon community allegedly remain at an evacuation site
at the Bunawan Brook village Multipurpose Hall in Bunawaon town.

Indigenous peoples’ rights defenders in Mindanao have faced repeated targeting, including killings and harassment. Most recently, on 9 February 2015, Mr Anjo Bacarisas, a staff member of RMP-NMR, was the victim of surveillance and intimidation.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern at the charges against Jomorito Goaynon, Julieto
Tawide Gomez, Verginia Saguitan Tugay, Melissa Amado Comiso, Tina Julieta Tawide Gomez and
Reyjoy Precioso, which it believes to be solely motivated by their peaceful and legitimate activities

in the defence of indigenous peoples’ rights. Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned for the
physical and psychological integrity of the human rights defenders.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in the Philippines to:
1. Immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against the above-mentioned human
rights defenders, as Front Line Defenders believes that they are being charged solely as a
result of their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;
2. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and
security of the above-mentioned human rights defenders;
3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the Philippines are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.