Jail BS Aquino instead of leaders helping Lumad evacuees

“Up to the last days of his presidency, BS Aquino has not ceased to attack the Filipino people,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said on the Davao City court’s issuance of warrants of arrest against leaders of people’s organizations, human rights advocates and church workers in Southern Mindanao who assisted Lumad evacuees in UCCP Haran, Davao City.

Palabay issued the statement during the National People’s Summit (Agenda for Change) where peace and human rights advocates, kin of victims of human rights violations presented the People’s Agenda for Peace and Human Rights to the incoming Duterte government.

Charged with kidnapping, serious illegal detention and trafficking in persons are: Rev. Jurie Jaime, Promotion of Church People’s Response; Sheena Duazo, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Mindanao Region (BAYAN-SMR); Hanimay Suazo, Secretary General, Karapatan-SMR; Ryan Lariba, Secretery General, BAYAN-Socsksargends; Tony Salubre, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP); Jimboy Marciano, Samahan ng mga Manggagawang Kontraktwal (Sama-Ako); Mary Ann Sapar of Gabriela-SMR; Jaja Necosio, Kilab Multimedia; Pedro Arnado, KMP-SMR; Kerlan Fanagel, Secretary General, PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao; Sr. Stella Matutina, OSB; Restita Miles, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Southern Mindanao; Datu Isidro Andao, PASAKA; Kharlo Manano, Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC); Rius Valle (CRC-SMR); and, many other John, Peter and Mary Does.

On February 2015, Lumad from the communities in Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon came in batches to seek refuge at the UCCP-Haran to “escape the terror of Alamara paramilitary and Philippine Army who occupied their communities and forcibly recruited them into the paramilitary group,” Palabay said. 

The cases filed against the 15 leaders and church workers are based on falsified information that the 700 Lumad evacuees were forcibly held in captive by those accused. Filed on May 12, 2015 by seven Matigsalog datu in connivance with the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command, the case was dismissed by the Davao City prosecutor Nestor Ledesma saying the “kidnapping ‘en masse’ at the heart of the city and confinement in a church compound is to say not plausible.” 

“For some reason, Davao City Regional Trial Court 10 Judge Retrina Fuentes suddenly came out with an arrest warrant,” Palabay said. 

On July 23, 2015, North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco brought anti-riot policemen and buses to force the Lumad evacuees to return to their communities. The incident resulted in a skirmish between the evacuees and the police and paramilitary elements. On February 24, 2016, the evacuation camp of the Lumad was burned by members of the Alamara paramilitary group injuring two children and three adults. Despite these incidents, the Lumad evacuees opted to remain at the evacuation center. 

“BS Aquino administration has institutionalized the policy and practice of criminalizing people’s rights advocacy and political dissent through the filing of trumped-up criminal charges against social activists, illegal arrests and detention. This has resulted to threats, harassment and imprisonment of members and leaders of people’s organizations,” she added. 

“What a horrible way to end his term. For sure, BS Aquino will not be missed, because each day of his presidency seemed like a curse. And, to end this curse, BS Aquino, should be jailed and not those who only intended to help Aquino’s victims,” Palabay ended.