Karapatan calls on CHR to probe the tokhang style-killings, arrests in IP communities in Panay

Human rights watchdog Karapatan called on the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the reported killings of nine indigenous Tumandok leaders and the arrests of 17 others in joint military and police operations in Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo — many of whom have been ceaselessly red-tagged by the military for their vocal opposition to militarization in their communities and, in recent years, the construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam project. Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said that the Duterte regime’s “murderous rampage” has “not ceased even amid the holiday season, claiming more and more innocent lives in the last days of the year.”

“These killings and arrests are meant to instill fear upon indigenous communities in order to silence their opposition to so-called development projects that encroach upon their ancestral domains and right to self-determination. Right on cue, the police and the military are already peddling the tokhang-style ‘nanlaban’ narrative and red-tagging them to somehow justify these killings, but the narratives from their relatives and their communities themselves debunk all the lies to prove one thing: this is a gruesome, cold-blooded rampage of killings,” Palabay stated.

Around 4 a.m. yesterday, December 30, joint operations of the Crime Investigation and Detection Group Western Visayas, the Philippine National Police Regional Office 6, and the 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army led by Lt. Col. Gervacio Balmaceda in Tapaz, Capiz and Calinog, Iloilo allegedly attempted to serve 28 search warrants against supposed members and supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army for illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Nine were killed in Tapaz, Capiz, with the police and the military claiming that those killed fought back as the search warrants were being served.

Based on initial information, seven of the nine killed were identified as Eliseo Gayas, Jr., Mauro Diaz, Arcelito Katipunan, Mario Aguirre, kagawad and former Brgy. Lahug captain Roy Giganto, Jomer Vidal, and Brgy. Nayawan captain Dalson Catamin — all recognized indigenous community leaders in their respective barangays. Gayas’s family members were ordered to go out of their house before armed operatives entered their house and killed him outright with four gunshots; Aguirre’s and Giganto’s houses, meanwhile were forcibly entered and operatives shot them dead inside while lying down asleep, in the presence of their families.

Meanwhile, 12 Tumandok were arrested, seven from different barangays of Calinog, Iloilo and 10 from Tapaz, Capiz, of whom only the following were identified: Marilyn Castor Chiva; Luisito Bautista, chief tanod of Brgy. Garangan in Calinog, from whom a .45 caliber pistol and two hand grenades were allegedly recovered; Glen Legario, from whom a .45 caliber pistol and two rifle grenades were allegedly recovered; Wilsie Chiva; Marivic Aguirre; Marilou Sumaria Catamin; Rolen Caro Catamin; Jucie Katipunan Caro; and Eleutricia Calbo Caro.

Palabay averred that “there is nothing to justify these arrests and most especially these killings. They bear all the same lies that have been the hallmarks of military disinformation to cover up their atrocities against civilians in counterinsurgency operations as well as the ‘nanlaban’ card pulled by the police in the sham drug war. These are not only assaults on the Tumandok but attacks on indigenous communities in the country in general — and for what, in the name of development? Must development come at the expense of the land, the rights, and the lives of our indigenous peoples?”

“With the rabid red-tagging spree of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, we can only expect more of these killings and arrests in 2021 — especially against those who oppose the government’s anti-people and murderous policies, and its schemes to establish a fascist dictatorship in the country. We assert our call to stop the killings in the Philippines, and we call on all freedom-loving Filipinos to condemn these brutal killings and blatant assault on indigenous peoples, to resist all fascist attacks that aim to muffle dissent, and to stand with us in demanding justice and accountability for the Duterte regime’s crimes against the Filipino people,” the Karapatan official ended.