Words by Mark Angelo Fabreag
Human rights alliance Karapatan Southern Tagalog (ST) condemns the harassment that its humanitarian team experienced from the Gumaca Municipal Police Station (MPS), after the latter refused to release the remains of Roderick Sinas.
Sinas was reportedly killed in an armed encounter with the 85th Infantry Battalion in Gumaca, Quezon last November 12.
“Despite presenting sufficient documents, including a special power of attorney, the humanitarian team is yet to meet Gumaca MPS Chief PMAJ Lowell Atienza. The local police have been turning down the team several times, citing no reason as to why the remains of Sinas would not be released to the humanitarian team,” Karapatan ST wrote in a Facebook post last November 17.
The legal documents presented by Karapatan ST were still unacknowledged by the 201st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (IBPA), the 85th IBPA, and Philippine National Police (PNP) Gumaca.
“This delaying tactic of Gumaca MPS is a clear violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,” Karapatan ST Spokesperson Kyle Salgado said.
Under Part IV, Article 3 of the said comprehensive agreement, it is stated that part of the prohibitions are the “desecration of the remains of those who have died in the course of the armed conflict or while under detention, and breach of duty to tender immediately such remains to their families or to give them decent burial”.
“If the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] – PNP could not recognize legal processes, this only goes to show that they do not at all value human rights,” Salgado added.
Karapatan ST added that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Region 4A already sent a letter to Gumaca PNP to ask for the immediate release of Sinas’ remains.
Last November 18, Karapatan ST said that Municipal Administrator Atty. Ronaldo Recto faced their humanitarian team. However, the alliance added that this only “delayed” the process, as Atty. Recto insisted that the team would need further documents. This is despite the proof of kinship and special power of attorney that the humanitarian team brought to retrieve Sinas’ remains.
“Hindi na sana pa kailangan ng mga dagdag na rekisito para maiuwi ang labi ni Roderick, sapat na ang dokumentong dala ng humanitarian team at walang kahit anong rason para patagalin pa ang proseso. Tanging hiling lamang ng team na maiuwi na si Roderick upang mabigyan ito ng maayos na burol at libing,” Karapatan ST added.
[“Additional requisites must not be required anymore for us to take home the remains of Roderick; the humanitarian team already brought sufficient information and there is no reason to delay the process. The only request of the team is to take home the remains of Roderick so that he can be given the proper funeral and burial rights.”]
Meanwhile, the province of Quezon continues to be in heightened militarization as last November 17, copra farmers Jorge Coronacion and Arnold Buri were “brutally killed” by the military in Barangay Taquico, Sampaloc, Quezon. The military claims that they recovered arms and explosives, as well as the flag of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army – National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
According to Karapatan ST, contrary to the military’s claim that the two were members of the NPA, Coronacion was a senior citizen with disability whose one eye is blind, whereas Buri was a farmer.
“This is a clear case of extrajudicial killing [EJK] justified as a fake encounter by state forces. It puts the number of peasant victims of EJKs under the Duterte regime at 344,” Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chairperson Danilo Ramos said.
Taquico Barangay Captain Elisio Mancenido further clarifies that the two civilians are not part of NPA and had no “bad record” in their barangay. Sampaloc, Quezon Mayor Gelo Devanadera testifies to this, saying that the two farmers are “legitimate residents” of their municipality.
Meanwhile, Sampaloc MPS Chief Police Lt. Alice Atienza said that investigation on the alleged “armed encounter” continues. [P]