ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME

Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-136-2015

13 November 2015
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PHILIPPINES : Group of indigenous persons accused of being rebels by military

ISSUES: Torture Victim, Right to life, Threats and Intimidation
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Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) deeply regrets to inform you that a group of Banwaon tribesmen were threatened, harassed and accused of being members of the New People’s Army by the 23rd Infantry Battalion and Civilian Armed Forces geographical Unit (CAFGU) identified as Mama Manpinsahan.

CASE DETAILS: (Based on the documentation by Lumad progressive organization (Katungod Lumad))

On 5 October 2015, at 6 a.m., three minors living in Sitio Kimambucayan, Agusan del sur left their house to gather and haul logs. On the way, they noticed an armed man tailing them. Suddenly, a man in camouflage uniform stepped in their path, pointed his rifle at them, and ordered them to lie on the ground. After they lay on the ground, 15 more armed men stepped out from behind bushes and trees. According to Lolong (not his real name), the men were wearing badges of the Armed Forces of the Philippines with the number 23. The military unit operating in the area is the 23rd Infantry Battalion.

They were brought to a place away from the trail. The suspected military men kept asking them of the presence of the New People’s Army (NPA). A member of the Civilian Armed Forces geographical Unit (CAFGU) they identified as Mama Manpinsahan, told them, “Kun itug-an ninyo asa ang mga NPA buhian namo mo, kun dili kuyugon namo mo sa operation.(If you tell us where the NPAs are, we will set you free, if not, we will bring you along in our operations.)”

The three were also accused of being NPA supporters and were assigned names: ‘Abe’, ‘Caloy’, and ‘Baking’. They were told that these were their names as NPA supporters. They were also asked of a certain Kay, allegedly a member of the NPA. They replied that they didn’t know a person by that name. But an armed man insisted, “It’s impossible, you should know this person because you’ve been living here.”

While they were interrogated, 14 other Lumads who happened to pass by were also detained. The same questions were asked of them. At 11:30 a.m., the military men were having lunch when suddenly a gunshot rang out. They immediately lay face down. With the military men’s attention directed elsewhere, the Lumads took the opportunity to escape.

The Banwaon in San Luis are members of Tagdumahan, an indigenous people’s organization in Agusan del Sur. The main objective of the organization is the protection of their ancestral domain, resisting the entry of extractive companies that would destroy their environment. Members of Tagdumahan have complained of the military operations in their community since September last year.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Kindly send letters to the concerned authorities listed below requesting for their immediate intervention in this case.

The AHRC is also writing a separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, calling for their intervention in this case.

To support this case, please click here: http://www.urgentappeals.net/support.php?ua=AHRC-UAC-137-2015

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

PHILIPPINES: Group of indigenous persons accused of being rebels by military
Name of the victim: Group of Banwaon tribesmen
Name of Alleged Perpetrator: 23rd Infantry Battalion
A member of the Civilian Armed Forces geographical Unit (CAFGU) identified as Mama Manpinsahan
Date of incident: 5 October 2015, 6 a.m.
Place of Incident: Sitio Kimambucayan, Agusan del sur

I am writing to raise my concern regarding the threats, harassment and accusations against a group of Banwaon tribesmen of being members of the New People’s Army.

On 5 October 2015, at 6 a.m., three minors living in Sitio Kimambucayan, Agusan del sur left their house to gather and haul logs. On the way, they noticed an armed man tailing them. Suddenly, a man in camouflage uniform stepped in their path, pointed his rifle at them, and ordered them to lie on the ground. After they lay on the ground, 15 more armed men stepped out from behind bushes and trees. According to Lolong (not his real name), the men were wearing badges of the Armed Forces of the Philippines with the number 23. The military unit operating in the area is the 23rd Infantry Battalion.

They were brought to a place away from the trail. I have learnt that the suspected military men kept asking them of the presence of the New People’s Army (NPA). A member of the Civilian Armed Forces geographical Unit (CAFGU) they identified as Mama Manpinsahan, told them, “Kun itug-an ninyo asa ang mga NPA buhian namo mo, kun dili kuyugon namo mo sa operation.(If you tell us where the NPAs are, we will set you free, if not, we will bring you along in our operations.)”

The three were also accused of being NPA supporters and were assigned names: ‘Abe’, ‘Caloy’, and ‘Baking’. They were told that these were their names as NPA supporters. They were also asked of a certain Kay, allegedly a member of the NPA. They replied that they didn’t know a person by that name. But an armed man insisted, “It’s impossible, you should know this person because you’ve been living here.”

While they were interrogated, 14 other Lumads who happened to pass by were also detained. The same questions were asked of them. At 11:30 a.m., the military men were having lunch when suddenly a gunshot rang out. They immediately lay face down. With the military men’s attention directed elsewhere, the Lumads took the opportunity to escape.

I am aware that the Banwaon in San Luis are members of Tagdumahan, an indigenous people’s organization in Agusan del Sur. The main objective of the organization is the protection of their ancestral domain, resisting the entry of extractive companies that would destroy their environment. Members of Tagdumahan have complained of the military operations in their community since September last year.

I trust that you will take appropriate action in this.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Benigno Aquino III
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80

2. Ms. Loretta Ann Rosales
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
E-mail: chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com

3. Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building , Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue , Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-9281 / 911-0488
Fax:+63(2) 911 6213
Email: osnd@philonline.com

4. Ms. Leila de Lima
Secretary
Department of Justice (DOJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
E-mail: soj@doj.gov.ph

Urgent Appeals Desk

Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ua@ahrc.asia)

Thank you.