Rights network calls on CHR to investigate judicial harassment, trumped up charges vs Mindanao activists, dev’t workers

In a press conference and meeting at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) today, February 12, 2020, Defend Mindanao, a newly-formed campaign network in defense of Mindanao human rights defenders and development workers facing judicial harassment, appealed to CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon and members of the commission to immediately investigate and facilitate remedies for the embattled activists.

“Mindanao has been a factory mill of trumped-up criminal charges against activists in the island as well as in the rest of the country. The Duterte administration has patently practiced such forms of legal offensives against those who express opposition to its fascist and anti-poor measures, especially in Mindanao where martial law was formally in place for two years,” Bayan Muna Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, Manobo woman leader and Defend Mindanao co-convener.

The Mindanaoan partylist leader further said that “the recent arrest of Nestor Amora, a businessman and former barangay captain, in Surigao City and Engr. Jennefer Aguhob, a law student and human rights worker, in Oroquieta City and the release of warrants of arrests against at least 22 peasant and indigenous people’s leaders, journalists, teachers/educators, human rights defenders, health workers, women’s rights activists, religious and humanitarian workers in CARAGA and Northern Mindanao are proof that de facto martial law continues to exist in Mindanao.”

Aguhob, also a Karapatan National Council member, was arrested on February 5, on fabricated murder charges. Amora, 60 years old, was arrested on February 7, 2020. He is among those facing charges in Bayugan City. Amorahas been a barangay captain of Banza in Butuan City from 2007 to 2018, president of the Butuan City Association of Barangay Captains and an ex-officio member of its Sangguniang Panglunsod from 2010 to 2018. He was elected Regional ABC president and a board member of Mindanao and the National Liga in in 2015 to 2018. He was recognized as an Outstanding Leader of the Year of Butuan City in 2017. He founded the Colegio de Liga ng mga Barangay in 2011. In the 2019 elections he ran for vice-mayor under PDP-Laban with former Butuan City mayor Dr. Ferdinand Amante. He has supported Bayan Muna Partylist, Makabayan senatorial candidates Teddy Casiño and Atty. Neri Colmenares during the elections.

In March 2019, several criminal complaints were filed at the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur, against at least 468 individuals, many with aliases and at least 78 known civilians, including human rights defenders in Northern Mindanao and CARAGA regions. Many defenders were surprised to learn about this information, as they did not receive subpoenas and thus were not able to respond accordingly. 

The said complaints were in relation to military offensives by the New People’s Army in November 2018 and December 2018 in Agusan del Norte and Sibagat town, Agusan del Sur respectively – incidents wherein the defenders have explicitly denied knowledge of or being part of. In the counteraffidavits of the human rights defenders who were able to know of the complaints in time, all of them were in various different locations and functions during the incident, facts which were corroborated by documentary and witness testimonies. They averred that the charges against them are fabricated, and that these are forms of judicial harassment and reprisals on their community and advocacy work. Some of the names of respondents were believed to be taken from the logbook for people providing relief and social services to the Lumad evacuees who sought sanctuary first in Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, then in Brgy. Buhisan in San Agustin, Surigao del Sur last July 2018.

On 31 July, 2019, the Office of the Prosecutor in Bayugan City came out with an omnibus resolution finding probable cause against the human rights defenders. In January 2020, court information and warrants of arrest have reportedly been issued against at least 19 of the defenders.

“As in the pattern in the extrajudicial killings of activists, the Duterte government and its State security forces indiscriminately lump together armed combatants of revolutionary movements and civilians, thereby considering civilians, including activists, fair targets of military combat operations and legal offensives, even if there are no factual bases to the charges and allegations of State forces,” stated peasant leader Antonio Flores, Defend Mindanao co-convener and also a Mindanaoan.

“We call on the CHR to actively seek remedies for the defenders whose lives, liberty and security are at risk because of these malicious charges. We will work tirelessly to defend individuals and communities who work for genuine justice and peace in Mindanao,” Flores concluded.


 

Human rights defenders from CARAGA and Northern Mindanao facing recently-issued warrants of rrests due to trumped up charges:

 

  • Sr. Emma Cupin, MSM, current regional coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in the Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR)
  • Nestor Amora, businessman, president of the Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) in Butuan City and ex-officio member of the Sangguniang Panglunsod (2010-2018)
  • Renvix Morgado, anchor and reporter, Radio Natin-Butuan
  • Carrelle A. Linubao, reporter, Bombo Radyo-Butuan
  • Ophelia Tabacon, Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Region 10 chairperson
  • Ateliana Hijos, long-time women’s rights activist and spokesperson of Gabriela-CARAGA
  • Rogelio Montero, peasant leader of Kapunungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Surigao del Sur (KAMASS); chairperson, Kilusang Magsasaka ng Pilipinas (KMP)-Caraga (2004-present)
  • Rebecca Paclawon, community health worker of the Community-Based Health Program in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur; peasant leader of KAMASS-KMP; Surigao del Sur coordinator of Gabriela Partylist
  • Proceso Torralba, peasant leader, general secretary of the Unyon sa mga Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte (UMAN-KMP) Tenia Garay, Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) council member
  • Bertolo Garay, MAPASU leader
  • Jeffrey Prado, deputy secretary general of Katribu - Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas
  • Jose Campos, leader of MAPASU and cousin of slain Lumad leader Dionel Campos
  • Edwin Batac, government employee and labor leader; president of Pacemco Mamumuong Nagkahiusa (PAMANA) under the National Federation of Labor Unions (NAFLU-KMU); chairperson, KMU-Caraga (2007-present)
  • Teresita Naul, Karapatan National Council member from the Northern Mindanao region
  • Aida Ibrahim, human rights worker of Karapatan-NMR and spokesperson of Tindeg Ranao, an organization of Maranao evacuees from Marawi
  • Francisco Pagayaman, Kadamay-Northern Mindanao chairperson
  • Datu Jomorito Guaynon, chairperson of the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization
  • Michel Pineda, Organizer, Organisasyon sa Yanong Obrerong Nagkahiusa (OGYON)-Bukidnon
  • Ireneo Udarbe, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas- Northern Mindanao Region
  • Aldeem Yanez, volunteer staff of Iglesia Filipina Independiente- Visayas-Mindanao Regional Office for Development (IFI-VIMROD)
 

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