Political activist illegally arrested after GRP’s “cancellation” of peacetalks with the NDFP

Dear friends,

After President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the formal peace talks of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on February 3 and with the military’s declaration of all-out war on February 5, 2017, attacks on activists, political dissenters, indigenous peoples and ordinary civilians have intensified.

Dear friends,

After President Rodrigo Duterte terminated the formal peace talks of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) on February 3 and with the military’s declaration of all-out war on February 5, 2017, attacks on activists, political dissenters, indigenous peoples and ordinary civilians have intensified.

Even during the period of the GRP unilateral ceasefire, in November 2016, elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been harassing and threatening teachers of the Center for Lumad and Advocacy Services Inc. (CLANS), a self-help education institution of the Lumad, in Barangay Datal Anggas, Alabel, Sarangani province. They were tagged as members of New People’s Army by soldiers who conducted a house-to-house campaign in the community.

Since February 3, 2017, elements of the 73rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) have been encamping in residents’ homes in the said community, particularly in sitios Tangis, Solutan and Dalid. On February 11, shortly after an encounter between the 73rd IBPA and the New People’s Army (NPA) in the boundary of Sitio Tangis, six (6) bombs were dropped from military choppers in Sitio Tangis and neighboring sitios. This prompted the residents to forcibly evacuate. Illegal arrests and detention, torture, illegal searches, divestment and destruction of properties immediately followed the aerial bombing of the AFP.

Please join us in condemning the continuing attacks against the Lumad and rural communities, and to call on the Duterte administration to pull out troops from these communities. Let us also demand the immediate release of eight Lumad farmers illegally arrested and arbitrarily detained by the military on trumped up charges, after the aerial bombing. They are currently detained at the Alabel Police Station for charges of frustrated murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Let us call on the Duterte administration to cease the implementation of counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan and continue the formal peace talks with the NDFP.

On February 11, 2017, at around 9:30 a.m., an armed encounter occurred between the 73rd IBPA and the NPA at the boundary of Sitio Tangis and Sitio Solutan in Brgy. Datal Anggas, Alabel, Sarangani province. After an hour, residents of Brgy. Tangis fleed towards a forested area in Sitio Kindag to seek refuge. Soldiers fired at the evacuating residents.

At 12 noon, six bombs were dropped by two military helicopters on Sitio Tangis and neighboring communities. Residents of Sitio Tangis immediately evacuated to the nearby Sitio Dalid, while some families went to the center of Brgy. Datal Anggas. 

A total of 120 households from sitios Tangis and Solutan were affected by the said bombing. Their crops such as abaca, coffee and corn were destroyed.

The soldiers forcibly entered and destroyed the houses of residents in Sitio Tangis, taking with them cellphones, ID cards, goods and livestock of the residents. At around 4pm, some of the residents went back to their houses in Sitio Tangis to check on their houses and crops.

In the evening, the soldiers conducted house-to-house operations, when they interviewed most of the male residents in the community and accused them of hiding firearms. They illegally entered, searched and destroyed the houses of civilians.

Among the residents who had gone back to their homes were Garson Palbe and Jun Moda and their families who were all residing in the same house, as well as their neighbor Sabelo Colano and his family. At 11pm, soldiers searched their homes and looked for firearms, but they did not find any. An hour after, the soldiers came back and apologized for what had happened and brought Palbe, Moda and Colano in a grassy area outside their houses. After 30 minutes, the soldiers, who were carrying additional firearms, brought the three men back inside their houses and told their wives, “Look, these are your husbands’ firearms.” The soldiers left shortly.

At around 5 a.m. on February 12, the soldiers came back and destroyed Palbe, Moda and Colano’s houses. The soldiers insisted that they are hiding firearms in their house.

Claude Palbe’s family also evacuated with his family on February 11, and returned home on the same day. On February 12, at around 5am, nine soldiers came to their house and looked for Palbe. Soldiers accused him of being a member of the New People’s Army, which he denied. The soldiers brought Pable with them. They told his wife, Margie, that Claude will be brought to some place where he will sign a document that he is not an NPA and he will get a reward.

Renel Mangcal’s family also returned to Sitio Tangis at 4pm on February 11. On February 12, at around 5am, soldiers arrested Mangcal and told his wife Judilyn that her husband will be brought to Datal Anggas to sign a document and get a reward.

In the case of Meon Salda, he evacuated around 4pm together with his family at Sitio Dalida. Unlike most of the residents who returned to Sitio Tangis on the same day, Salda’s family decided to stay in Sitio Dalida. At around 11pm, the soldiers went to the house where Salda’s family was staying and ordered all men in the area to come out. All female residents were ordered to stay inside their houses. Salda’s hands were immediately tied. He pleaded and told the soldiers that he was not an NPA and did not have any firearm but to no avail. Salda was brought to the school grounds in the community and was made to sleep there. His wife was told the next day that her husband will be given a “reward.”

In the morning of February 12, soldiers went back to the houses of Renel Mangcal, Claude Palbe, Garson Palbe, Jun Moda and Sabelo Colano and brought to the house of Minoy Colano, the purok chairperson of Sitio Tangis. Meon Salda was also brought to Colano’s house, where more than ten soldiers were waiting. Their hands were untied and they were interrogated individually. They were accused of owning high-powered guns, which were shown to them. The six denied the accusation.

The victims identified one of the interrogators as a certain Labasa from the 73rd IBPA. The military threatened to bring them to the battalion camp, where they will be presented as surrenderees, if they won’t cooperate and admit ownership of the firearms. They were all promised rewards, as part of the government program on rebel returnees.

Despite these, the victims denied ownership of the firearms. Failing to coerce the Lumad, the soldiers tortured them. Colano was punched in his left jaw and was hit with a gun on the stomach. Moda was slapped twice on his right cheek, while soldiers punched Salda’s chest. Palbe’s right ear was slapped.

On February 14, the six were brought to the Alabel Police Station and were charged with trumped up cases of frustrated murder and illegal possession of firearms and explosives by their captors.

Two more civilians from Sitio Solutan were also arrested.

On February 12 at around 12 noon, Nonoy Sanama, his wife Dalia and 3 month old daughter saw four (4) soldiers waiting at the purok center. A certain Kidlat Kosa Mandaragit, known as a military asset, approached Nonoy, accused him of being being an NPA member and arrested him. He was brought to a grassy area, 30 meters away from the purok center. Dalia went home with her daughter.

After an hour, the soldiers brought Nonoy to their house and told Dalia, “Your husband is hiding firearms in the grass.” Nonoy denied that he owned the firearms, while Dalia confirmed this. The soldiers told Dalia not to worry because her husband is a surrenderee and he will get a reward in Alabel. He left Nonoy at their house, then fired their firearms four times in the air. The soldiers left Sitio Solutan and walked towards Sitio Tangis.

Also on February 13, 2017, Eddie Colano, a military asset, went to the house of Morelo Sanama and told him that he was being summoned by Lt. Labasa in Sitio Tangis at the residence of Purok Chairman Minoy Colano.

On the same day, Eddie Colano went to the homes of Nonoy and Morelo and arrested the two. They were brought to Sitio Tangis, in the residence of Purok Chairman Minoy Colano.

At Minoy Colano’s house, Nonoy and Morelo were interrogated by ten soldiers, who were forcing them to admit that they own firearms which was allegedly seized from them by the military. The firearms were not shown to them and they were also offered a reward. Nonoy and Morelo refused to admit that they own any firearm. The two were not allowed to go home and were made to stay overnight at Colano’s house.

On February 14, they were brought to the Alabel Police Station, where they were detained with six other detainees from Sitio Tangis.

On February 15, all eight Lumad farmers were brought to the court for inquest. They were represented by a lawyer from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO). All are arbitrarily detained for two to three days before they were brought to court for charges against them.
As a result of the bombing, the open water source of Sitio Tangis was also contaminated and there were already reported cases of children who got sick for drinking the contaminated water. At least 120 households forcibly evacuated from the communities due to the bombing, while the number of homes destroyed and divested properties has yet to be fully accounted for. Majority of the residents have already gone back to their homes, despite continuing military operations in the area. 

Recommended actions:
Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

  1. The immediate investigation of the separate incidents to be conducted by an independent body;
  2. The Philippine government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to pull out military troops in all communities;
  3. The Philippine government to immediately release and drop the charges against the eight Lumad farmers who were illegally arrested and arbitrarily detained, and all political prisoners who have been similarly charged with trumped-up charges;
  4. The immediate investigation and prosecution of perpetrators which include elements of the 73rd IBPA and their military assets;
  5. End the implementation of the counter-insurgency program of the government, Oplan Kapayapaan;
  6. The Philippine government, through the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) and the local government of Alabel, Sarangani to provide immediate relief to the residents of Sitios Tangis and nearby communities, since the people’s livelihood were affected by the bombings of the AFP;
  7. The local government to provide immediate support to the families of illegally arrested farmers who were breadwinners of the family;
  8. The Philippine government to provide reparations to residents, with their crops destroyed during the bombing, their properties looted and their homes destroyed;
  9. The Philippine Government to abide by its commitments under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL); and
  10. The Philippine Government to adhere and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory.


You may send your communications to:

H.E. Rodrigo Duterte
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
E-mail: op@president.gov.ph or send message through http://president.gov.ph/contact-us/

Hon. Jesus Dureza
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216
Email: stqd.papp@opapp.gov.ph, feedback@opapp.net

Ret. Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600
Fax:+63(2) 982-5600
Email: info@dnd.gov.ph, webmaster@dnd.gov.ph

Hon. Vitaliano Aguirre
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline:  523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614
Email: communications@doj.gov.ph

Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
Email: chairgascon.chr@gmail.com

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below:

URGENT ACTION Prepared by:

KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
National Office
2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin cor Matatag Sts., Brgy. Central,
Diliman, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146
Email: urgentaction@karapatan.org; karapatan@karapatan.org
Website: www.karapatan.org