Four Aetas were pressed with trumped up charges for allegedly violating the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the Republic Act (RA) 9516 or the Illegal Possession of Explosives, and the RA 10591 o Violation Against Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition.
Among those being charged were Jay Garung, Rosalyn Urbano, Kiray Serrano and Junior Ramos, who are now experiencing detainment and separated from their families in Sitio Lumibao, Zambales.
Last August 21, over 192 families and 659 residents faced sudden eviction due to a supposed ongoing conflict with the National People’s Army (NPA), the 73rd Division Reconnaissance Company, and the 48th Infantry Battalion under the 7th Infantry Division Philippine Army (7ID PA).
The said military operation resulted into numerous bombings and attacks within the Aeta lands, disrupting the security and livelihood for hundreds of families. In an attempt to get affected Aetas to surrender in being part of the NPA, members of the 7ID PA allegedly resorted to degrading methods of torture and detainment, such as forcing victims to eat human feces and verbal abuse.
Downplaying human rights
These bombings were denied by the 7ID Public Affairs Office Chief Major Amando Gutierrez, who said that no bombing happened and that Aetans were checked by a doctor.
According to the Commision on Human Rights (CHR) spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia, “… the Commission has always reminded members of the armed forces to adhere to the principles of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
This however, is contradictory to the recent statement of Pitang Garung, the mother of Lumibao 4 victim Jay Garung, who stated that Jay had been subjected to physical and mental torture since his detainment.
“Pinaparantangan nilang NPA ang anak ko… binugbog at pinagtatadyak po nila ang anak ko, tapos pinakain pa nila ng dumi ng tao ang anak ko,” she said.
According to Sandugo-Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination (SANDUGO) the bombardment of the Aeta community was meant to pave way for mining explorations of Dizon Copper-Silver Mines, Inc.
Similar ATL narratives
Similar cases of military attempts of forcing indigeneous people in admitting to being connected with the NPA had occurred in Sitio Magkahunaw, Surigao del Sur, which led to a shooting last October 28. Lumad families were also forced to evict, and over seven victims were detained by the 3rd Special Forces Battalion.
According to Kasalo Caraga, the physical and mental torture consisted of pointing the gun towards the forehead of the victims while persisting them to admit to being with the NPA. The gun threats almost hit two children who had tried to escape from the attacks.
Last August 26, another attack on the indigeneous people community in Sitio Laburon, Bukidnon, San Fernando occurred when two teachers who worked in Lumad schools reported that the buildings and school supplies have been allegedly damaged by the 89th Infantry Battalion (89IB), who set up military camp near the area. [P]
Photo by Kristine Paula Bautista