November 27, 2018
Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831
Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580
Two weeks in Mindanao: Two farmers shot, four teachers abducted, five students tortured and a family assaulted
“Two dead, four missing, a family assaulted and five minors tortured by government forces in Mindanao – all in a span of two weeks! This is the real face of martial law, the reality that the Duterte regime is desperately trying to whitewash. The government, however, is still eyeing the extension of military rule in Mindanao, insistent on cracking down against marginalized sectors raising legitimate demands. The perpetrators are guaranteed protection, while the Filipino people are left to suffer unbridled repression and plunder,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, citing the recent cases of killings and frustrated killings, abduction, and torture in Mindanao.
On the morning of November 12, 2018, soldiers of the 51st and 81st Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA) were seen roving around Sitio Babalayan, Brgy. Durongan, Tagoloan 2, Lanao del Sur. They were looking for a certain Sultan Jamla and Datu Langi, both known community leaders in the area. During this time, four literacy-numeracy volunteer teachers of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Sub-region (RMP-NMR) were conducting classes in the community’s school. Thereafter, teachers Tema Namatidong, 28, Julius Torregosa, 30, Ariel Barluado, 22, and Giovanni Solomon, 20, went missing, but not before one of them was able to send a text message confirming the military’s presence in the school.
On November 23, RMP received an update from a community leader that the four teachers are in the custody of the soldiers and were brought to Marawi City, though this remains to be verified. As of this writing, officers of RMP-NMR who went around army camps to ascertain the whereabouts of the missing teachers only received denials; they were referred to the army brigade in Marawi City instead.
In Kitaotao, Bukidnon, a member of a Lumad school’s Parents-Teachers Community Association (PTCA) was shot dead on November 17. Esteban Empong Sr., 49, was shot dead while asleep in a relative’s house. Empong Sr., a member of Tinananon Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa (TIKULPA), was subjected to harassment prior to his killing. Particularly, the 19th IBPA alleged that the victim was an NPA member and announced a PhP 35,000 bounty for his arrest. Empong was one of the first teachers of the adult literacy program in community schools in the area.
The next day, November 18, 2018, five students, on their way home, were tortured by soldiers of the 19th IBPA in Magpet, North Cotabato. The victims, all minors, were students of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) in North Cotabato. The children were asked about the whereabouts of members of New People’s Army (NPA) and were beaten when they failed to respond. Two boys were mauled and forced to kneel on the ground. Soldiers also threatened to shoot the children. As of this writing, the victims are now safe with their families.
Also on November 23, Datu Walter España, 34, a Manobo and chairperson of the Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Sur (NAMASUR), an affiliate of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), was shot by eight armed men in Sitio Cantagan, Brgy. Lucac, San Francisco, Agusan del Sur. España was immediately brought to the hospital and is still in critical condition after sustaining bullet wounds on his right chest, stomach, legs, and back part of his waist. His companion, Rommel Romon, 22, also an active member of NAMASUR, sustained three gunshot wounds and died immediately. Another companion survived and was able to report the incident. The three were on their way home when they were attacked.
The victims’ organization is known for strongly opposing the expansion of oil palm plantation of Davao San Francisco Agricultural Ventures Inc. (DASFAVI) in the area. España, in fact, was subjected to threat and harassment prior to the incident.
Progressive organizations are not the only targets. Entire families have also been subjected to torture. On November 24, nine members of the 65th IBPA based in Opol, Misamis Oriental, forcefully entered the house of Joseph Paborada at nine in the evening. Paborada’s family, composed of his wife and three children, were beaten and kicked by the perpetrators. A soldier even fired his gun twice and threatened Paborada that he will shoot one of his kids next. Paborada is the chairperson of Pangalasag, a Lumad local organization and member of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization. The organization advocates for the protection and defense of their ancestral domain.
“These continue to happen because repressive laws and policies always trump legislation that aim to protect and promote people’s rights. The Anti-Torture Law, for example, remains largely forgotten in the context of martial law and the implementation of counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan. State forces are much more adept at violating and abusing their power, rather than following their mandate to serve the people. The government and its forces remain militarist, and so they know no other way than to kill and violate with reckless abandon,” added Palabay.
“The government targets indigenous and peasant communities. Increasingly, the Duterte regime has also trained its guns on teachers. Lumad schools are bad for a government who prefers an uneducated populace. Likewise, progressive organizations are bad for a government who prefers disunity. In any case, after this series of violations, martial law has peddled State terrorism to an unprecedented degree,” Karapatan concluded.
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
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KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.