Two peasant leaders possibly disappeared as attacks vs Mindanao communities continue - Karapatan

“In the first month of 2019, we have already received a long list of military atrocities in peasant communities in Mindanao, including the recent abduction of two peasant leaders. These attacks are bound to exacerbate, what with the myriad of repressive policies piled on top of each other, ranging from martial law to the implementation of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Last night, Karapatan received reports that a Lumad leader and a peasant leader had gone missing, raising fears that the two might have been forcibly disappeared. On January 28, 2019, Datu Jomorito Goaynon, Lumad leader and chairperson of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization, went missing, according to an urgent alert from the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Northern Mindanao Region (KMP-NMR). Goaynon was with Ireneo Udarbe, chairperson of KMP-NMR. The two have been unreachable since the morning of January 28.

According to the said alert, Goaynon and Udarbe left their office at around 10 A.M. The two were on their way to a meeting with Pig-uyonan, a member organization of Kalumbay, which was scheduled to have a dialogue with the 65th Infantry Battalion, facilitated by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The victims’ last communication with another Kalumbay staff was around 11am, when they informed their colleagues that they are on their way to the designated meeting place. However, the two never reached their destination. None of their friends, colleagues, and relatives heard from them afterward.

Prior to the incident, Goaynon has filed a complaint at the CHR against the 65th IBPA for cases of harassment. A tarpaulin bearing Goaynon’s photo, along with text accusing him of recruiting the Lumad to the New People’s Army (NPA), was hanged in public places. Goaynon and Udarbe were also among those illegally arrested by composite elements of the military and police, along with 13 other church workers and rights advocates, in July 2018.

“From Lumad leaders to entire indigenous communities, the attacks are relentless. From December 2018 until January, the Lumad from Lianga, Surigao del Sur have been welcoming the new year with incidences of food blockades, bombings, displacement from their communities, torture, and indiscriminate firing. Intensified military operations, as prescribed through martial law, have disrupted and irreparably damaged the lives and livelihood of the Lumad in Surigao del Sur. Despite these atrocities, they continue to persist in defending their ancestral lands from corporate and foreign plunder and in strengthening the campaign to end the militarization of their communities,” added Palabay.

The Karapatan leader also cited the following reports from human rights workers in Caraga:

1. On December 30, 2018, the 401st Brigade of the AFP flew bomber planes, bombed and strafed farm areas around the communities of Panukmoan and Decov which led to the forced evacuation of residents; 

2. On January 12, two residents of Brgy. Diatagon were fired upon and interrogated by soldiers. The next day, January 13, food supplies were blocked by the 75th IBPA at a checkpoint in Sitio Neptune, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga; 

3. On January 21, a series of bombings forced 55 families from the communities of Decov, Panukmoan, Manluv-a, and Km. 15 in Brgy Diatagon to evacuate; 

4. Two days later, on the 23rd, a farmer along with his 8-year-old child and 17-year-old nephew were tied and interrogated by operating troops of the 16th Special Forces Battalion in Brgy. Buhisan, San Agustin, Surigao del Sur. The 17-year-old boy was taken and used as a guide by the military and has not returned home since; 

5. On January 24, elements of the 75th IBPA, 36th IBPA, and 16th SFB indiscriminately fired at six residents in Km. 30, Brgy. Buhisan, San Agustin. The farmers, who were carving abaca along the road, scrambled and ran for safety. As of this writing, four of the farmers have yet to return to their communities.

“To indigenous and peasant communities in Mindanao, martial law is an issue of life and death -- it is an issue of whether or not they have to walk hours to get to safety, whether the children can continue their schooling; whether the residents can sleep without fear of their homes being bombed. This is why these communities are resolute in their call to pull-out troops in their communities, end martial law in Mindanao, and withdraw Oplan Kapayapaan. We amplify these demands and are one with the victims in calling for justice and accountability. We likewise demand that the perpetrators immediately surface Datu Jomorito Guaynon and Ireneo Udarbe,” Palabay said.

“This is the real, ugly face of military rule. These crimes will inevitably rise to the surface, regardless of how many times it is dismissed or downplayed by this regime. The Duterte government is actively peddling the idea that Mindanaoans can only be safe if communities are made vulnerable to attacks as if the latter is a prerequisite to attain the former. This is false and flawed. Conflicts in Mindanao stem from historical injustice and the continuing marginalization of particular groups and ethnicities. Militarist policies that do nothing to resolve these injustices, but instead perpetuate more abuses, will no doubt worsen the already volatile situation in the South,” Palabay concluded.