Condemn massacre and arrests of Tumandok Indigenous Leaders, Panay, Philippines

January 29, 2021
Hon Michelle Bachelet
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
Condemn massacre and arrests of Tumandok Indigenous Leaders, Panay, Philippines

Dear Excellency,
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines protests in the very strongest terms at the ruthless massacre of nine leaders of the Tumandok Indigenous People and the arrest of a further sixteen leaders – ten men and six women – on the island of Panay at 4-5am on December 30, 2020.
According to our reliable source at KARAPATAN Panay, this act of state terror was conducted by a Composite Team of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army 12the Infantry Battalion, led by Police Lieutenant Colonel Gervacio Balmaceda, CIDG 6 regional chief. A total of 500 soldiers and police were involved.
This force conducted a series of raids as part of a massive operation in different Tumandok communities in six barangays of Tapaz, Capiz and in two barangays of Calinog, Iloilo.
The nine who were killed were identified as the following:
1. Roy Giganto, married (to Analyn Giganto), a barangay kagawad & former punong barangay of Brgy. Lahug, Tapaz, chairperson of IP association Tumandok nga Mangunguma nga Nagpangapin sa Duta kag Kabuhi (Tumanduk)
2. Reynaldo Katipunan, 42, married (to Maritess Katipunan), barangay kagawad of Brgy. Lahug, Tapaz
3. Mario Aguirre, 45, married (to Gemma Aguirre), barangay kagawad of Brgy. Lahug, Tapaz
4. Eliseo Gayas, Jr., 57, married (to Teresita Gayas) a barangay lupon member of Brgy. Aglinab, Tapaz, council member of Tumanduk
5. Maurito Diaz of Brgy. Tacayan, Tapaz
6. Artilito Katipunan of Brgy. Acuña, Tapaz
7. Jomer Vidal of Brgy. Daan Sur, Tapaz
8. Garson Catamin, punong barangay of Nayawan, Tapaz
9. Rolando Diaz of Brgy. Nayawan, Tapaz
PLTCOL Gervacio Balmaceda alleged that the victims fought back when they were served with search warrants. Families of the victims, however, said they did not fight back but were mercilessly killed by the operatives.
An example of just one witness account will demonstrate what took place.
At about 4:25 a.m. that day, armed operatives forcibly entered the house of Eliseo Gayas, waking the sleeping occupants. They ordered his family members to go out and at gunpoint made them lie face down on the ground. They gagged Eliseo with tape so his family heard nothing from him. After a while, his wife and children heard four gunshots from inside the house. Subsequent autopsy showed a bullet wound from a 45-caliber gun and another from an armalite rifle, marks from rifle barrels on both his sides, broken left ribs, swollen left chest from beating and burns on his arms going to his armpit possibly from electrocution. He vomited blood.
The 16 who were arrested in the same operation are the following:
1. Marilyn Castor Chiva of Brgy. Garangan, Calinog, Iloilo
2. Luisito Bautista, chief barangay tanod of Brgy. Garangan, Calinog, Iloilo
3. Wilsio Chiva, 60 of Brgy. Garangan, Calinog, Iloilo
4. Benito Caballero, of Brgy. Masaroy, Calinog, Iloilo
5. Rodolfo Diaz of Brgy. Masaroy, Calinog, Iloilo
6. Lauriano Castor Jr of Brgy. Masaroy, Calinog, Iloilo
7. Marevic Aguirre, 49, married, former punong barangay of Brgy. Lahug, Tapaz, former chairperson of Tumanduk, presently Municipal coordinator of the Project Monitoring Team under the Mayor’s Office
8. Ailyn Catamin, 49, married, former punong barangay of Brgy. Tacayan, Tapaz, Capiz, secretary-general of Tumanduk, presently member of the Municipal Project Monitoring Team under the Mayor’s Office
9. Rolando Diaz Sr., 71, of Brgy. Tacayan, Tapaz, Capiz
10. Marilou Catamin, 54, of Brgy. Roosevelt, Tapaz
11. Rollen Catamin, 21, of Brgy. Roosevelt, Tapaz
12. Jucie Katipunan Caro, 44, barangay kagawad of Brgy. Roosevelt, Tapaz
13. Eleuteria Caro, 62, of Brgy. Roosevelt, Tapaz
14. Benny Loraña of Brgy. Aglinab, Tapaz
15. Ferdinand Caspillo of Brgy Acuña, Tapaz
16. Carlito Diaz of Brgy. Nayawan, Tapaz
Again, one witness account will show how the search warrants were implemented.
At around 4 a.m. on Dec 30, 2020, the household of Marevic Aguirre in Lahug was awakened by gunshots in front of their house. The armed operatives shouted for them to go out. The operatives entered Marevic’s house. They took the cellphones that they saw inside, also the hand-held radio assigned to Marevic by the Mayor’s monitoring team. They then proceeded to take Marevic and her family members a short distance from their house and made them lie down face on the ground. They kept them this way under guard and at gunpoint until it was morning. At around 5 a.m., they brought Marevic, whom they handcuffed, back to her house. Things in the house were in disarray. Food inside her refrigerator were eaten, soft drinks and other items from her sarisari store were consumed. They showed Marevic a handgun and a grenade at the sala, and an improvised explosive device in a room upstairs. There were no such items inside her house before the armed operatives came. Later in the morning, Marevic was taken to the elementary school and put on a chopper. She was flown to Tapaz town and turned over to the Tapaz PNP station and detained at the PNP jail.
This massive abuse of the right to life and liberty, and the rights of Indigenous Peoples was based on ridiculous red-tagging of these communities. However the underlying motive was the resistance of the Tumandok people to the Jalaur River Mega Dam Project since 2011. So far construction of the dam – financed by South Korean Government Aid, the Korea Exim Bank and to be constructed by Daewoo E&S – had not begun, but the Philippine government is pushing to overcome community resistance.
We call on the international community to unequivocally condemn the Tumandok massacre and mass arrests on trumped up charges of community leaders. We call for your office and the United Nations Security Council to lead that condemnation, and to urge the Philippines government to bring the perpetrators to justice, to abandon its war on all political opposition, and instead to release all political prisoners and resume the stalled peace talks.
We call on all member states of the UN Human Rights Council to be seized of the seriousness of the human rights situation in the Philippines and to adopt as soon as possible all the recommendations in your June 30, 2020, report on the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Peter Murphy, Chairperson, Global Council,
International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines