LIST: Human rights watch (June 5 – 12, 2021)

Three months have passed since COPLAN ASVAL took the lives of nine Southern Tagalog (ST) progressives and detained six more. Three months, and even with the initial promise of an investigation from the Department of Justice (DOJ), justice was almost out of sight (READ: Families, friends reiterate demand for justice a month after COPLAN ASVAL’s Bloody Sunday)

This lack of justice can even be felt in Panay, wherein months after the massacre of nine Tumandok indigenous people (IPs) and the arrest of 18 more, 14 Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) personnel were exonerated of any liability. As Defend Panay Network puts it, the whole ordeal was “nothing but a farce” (READ: 9 Tumandok IP pinaslang, 18 inaresto sa Capiz).

As the accidental deaths of cousins Kieth and Nolven Absalon last June 6 by landmine blast (an incident that armed revolutionary group New People’s Army [NPA] hold themselves accountable for) reignited appeals for peace talks, the state’s culture of impunity continued.

From Cordillera police admitting to running six red-tagging Facebook pages to even a case of arson, here are all of the other HRVs that have been reported this week.

Pastor Benjie Gomez at service.
Photo from Lennin Mae Gomez.

June 6 – Mutia, Zamboanga del Norte

Pastor Benjie Gomez, Lumad advocate, and father of UPLB student Lennin Gomez, was detained by authorities after a Sunday worship in Zamboanga del Norte. He is currently in Leon Postigo Municipal Police Station for trumped-up murder charges.

According to his daughter, Pastor Gomez is facing charges that were already dropped before. This time, it is with a different arrest warrant (FULL STORY: Father of UPLB student detained in Zamboanga on reused trumped-up murder charges).

June 6 – Donsol, Sorsogon

Three farmers in Donsol, Sorsogon were illegally taken by operatives from the 31st Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA) last June 6, Anakbayan Sorsogon says.

Etoy Magdamit Jr., Antonio Razo Jr., and Salvador Moscoso were all working when they were abducted by the military, with their whereabouts yet unknown. 

Anakbayan Sorsogon condemns the continuous harassment by 31st IBPA and calls for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) – Bicol to investigate the case for the immediate release of the farmers.

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A screenshot of the webinar.
Photo from Rise for Education – Bulsu / Facebook

June 7 – Pampanga

College Editor Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) – Central Luzon said that both Bulacan State University and Holy Angel University in Pampanga were red-tagged by National intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) and National Task Force to End Local Communist (NTF-ELCAC) last June 7.

In a webinar series that was attended by 400 members of Local Government Units (LGUs) of Central Luzon, the two universities were mentioned as recruitment grounds for revolutionary groups. In a Facebook post, Rise for Education-BulSU denounced the red-tagging and called the administration of BulSU to uphold the academic freedom and safe-haven of the universities.

Two police officers spotted outside the office of Gabriela Women’s Party.
Photo from Gabriela Women’s Party / Facebook

June 8 – 9 – Project 4 and Brgy. Claro in Quezon City, respectively

Assistant Minority Leader and Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Rep. Arlene Brosas called-out Police Station 8 of the Quezon City Police District (QCPD), after two of their police officers harassed a staff member of GWP on June 9. 

The police officers went to GWP’s national headquarters in Project 4, Quezon City twice, intimidating the staff into divulging their personal and contact information, as well the partylist’s activities for Independence Day this June 12. 

Rep. Brosas said that these police visits were indicative of intensified attacks against the partylist, and even other progressive groups and critics of the administration. 

“We will remain vigilant as the Duterte’s government plans to intensify its attacks against progressive groups and critics of the administration to consolidate its power as the 2022 elections draw near,” Rep. Brosas concluded. 

Meanwhile, a separate incident last June 8 in Quezon City involved a neighborhood in Brgy. Claro, wherein posters branded labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and their chairperson as terrorists. KMU Secretary for Human Rights Elaenor De Guzman reported the incident to local barangay officials to investigate the harassment and attack towards the workers’ right to freedom of association.

Police officers surrounding the quarantine facility where the humanitarian team was.
Photo from Student Christian Movement of the Philippines – SCMP / Facebook

June 9 – Romblon

A humanitarian team attempting to visit four individuals detained in Romblon Municipal Police Station was harassed by Romblon municipal officials and police, Defend Southern Tagalog says.

According to the alliance, the humanitarian team assisted a church member who requested to  visit her sibling, Marlon Torres. Torres and three others were arrested last June 4 and were branded as NPA members, after taking shelter at Sibale Island due to Typhoon Dante.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian team was “pressured on vague technicalities” and urged to go home even without having the assurance that the church member could talk with Torres. On June 9, the team was brought to a municipal quarantine facility guarded by at least 20 fully-armed police, and were flagged with violating municipal protocols, even if their presence was “legally allowed as an emergency case” and the team was complete with required documents.

It was only after “constant dialogue” that the church member and one companion from the team were allowed to come to Romblon Municipal Police Station to talk to and check on Torres and his companions. Afterwards, the team was immediately “ferried off” out of Romblon.

June 9 –  Brgy. Dela Paz, Luisiana, Laguna

60-year-old farmer Francisco Oblepias, Jr. was shot dead reportedly by elements of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last June 9 in Barangay Dela Paz, Louisiana, Laguna. This was after an alleged encounter with the soldiers.

Human rights alliance Karapatan Timog Katagalugan (TK) said that they retrieved contradicting pieces of information. While the 202nd Infantry Battalion called this a legitimate encounter, with an M1 Garand rifle being retrieved from Oblepias, witnesses revealed that the group surrounded Oblepias’ house and fired a shedload of gunshots onto it. They alleged that AFP might have planted evidence to make it appear as though Oblepias retaliated. 

In an additional report, it was found that Oblepias’ jaw was pummeled, indicating that he may have been tortured before being killed. 

Sa kasalukuyan ay hindi pa rin malinaw kung ano ang katotohanan. Lalabas ito mula sa hiwalay na imbestigasyon sa pangyayari. Ngunit hindi nakapagtataka kung lalabas na nagsisinungaling ang AFP,” Karapatan-TK said, highlighting that 202nd IB’s Brig. Gen. Alex Rillera is a known “liar.”

June 9 – Brgy. Anas, Masbate

Three Masbate peasants were slain on June 9 by joint forces of the 2nd Infantry Battalion (IBPA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Brgy. Anas, Masbate. 

Tony Poligrates, Boy Briones, and an unidentified individual were killed in the incident. The three people slain were branded as members of the NPA by AFP-PNP. They further said that the slain individuals were engaged in an incident that resulted in the deaths of the Absalon cousins, and that killing them is their method of bringing justice to the victims’ bereaved families.

KMU strongly denounced the killings, describing the violence inflicted by state forces among peasants as abominable. According to them, these rampant killings must be condemned along with the call for the revival of the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines-National Democratic Fronts (GRP-NDF) and the resumption of peace talks. 

The damaged remains of Habagat, the elf truck.
Photo from PAMANTIK-KMU / Facebook

June 11 – Cabuyao, Laguna

Arsonists burned an elf truck belonging to labor federation Organized Labor Associations in Line Industries and Agriculture (OLALIA-KMU) today, labor center Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan – Kilusang Mayo Uno (PAMANTIK-KMU) says.

The truck, named “Habagat” by workers, was said to have been used to serve the needs of the people, such as in relief operations. The blaze almost scorched nearby homes.

“Ang elf truck na ito ay ginagamit sa mga aktibidad ng mga manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan gayundin sa pagseserbisyo sa mga mamamayan partikular sa mga relief operations, kaya ganoon na lamang ang galit ng OLALIA-KMU sa nangyari. Malaki ang naging ambag nito sa pagpapatambol sa mga kampanyang manggagawa at bayan sa nakalipas na halos dalawang dekada,” PAMANTIK-KMU said, seeing the incident as another form of intimidation.

Cavite police attempting to disrupt the Independence Day protest.
Photo from Southern Tagalog Exposure

June 9 and 12 – Lupang Kapdula, Dasmariñas and Kawit, Cavite, respectively

While ST progressives and sectors organized at Binakayan, Kawit, Cavite yesterday to commemorate Independence Day, Cavite police attempted to disrupt the program, Karapatan-TK says. Some police officers reportedly tried to snatch the microphone from the speaker and carried out violent dispersal among the protesters but failed to dismantle the protest. 

Three days earlier, also in Cavite, a farmer’s hut in Lupang Kapdula in Dasmariñas was reportedly trashed by five members of the JAKA Investment Corp. and South Cavite Land. According to farmers group Kasapian ng mga Samahang Mambubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK), the aforementioned farmer is also a member of another peasant group: Samahang Magbubukid ng Kapdula (SAMAKA).

Lupang Kapdula has had a long history of land-grabbing incidents prior to this instance, with the farmers being fooled into signing 30 hectares of their land away to South Cavite Land back in 1991 (READ: Kapdula farmers defend land against commercialization, land grabbing threats). [P]

Human Rights Watch is a weekly collation of human rights news stories gathered from different sources by UPLB Perspective. This initiative was launched in response to the sweeping number of human rights violations (HRVs) among various sectors across the country.

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