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Charges against Satur and aid group has no basis–LODI

The Duterte regime has reached a new low with the filing of preposterous human trafficking and kidnapping charges against veteran journalist, activist and human rights advocate Satur Ocampo, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro as they were on a fact-finding to aid beleaguered indigenous people in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

The arts and media alliance, Let’s Organize for Democracy and Integrity demands the immediate release of Ocampo and Castro and their 17 companions.

The charges are baseless, meant to cover up the truth: That it is the paramilitary groups Alamara and Magahat Bagani, commanded by the Philippine Army, that lay waste to Lumad communities. They should be the ones facing charges as they have killed Lumad leaders, shut down schools, and driven off communities from ancestral lands that President Rodrigo Duterte has promised to business and foreign patrons.

Ocampo is a a columnist with The Philippine Star and chairperson of the Board of Directors of Bulatlat.com. He joined the 19-member National Humanitarian Mission that went to Talaingod Wednesday night to bring aid to the Lumad.

Ocampo and the rest of the mission accompanied the Lumad evacuees at the Talaingod police station to lodge complaints against the paramilitary group Alamara. To preempt the human rights case, cops concocted their lies.

The charge has no basis. The parents of 29 Lumad students provided written statements of recognition for the mission’s presence and purpose.

This afternoon, Ocampo and the others were taken to Kapalong District Hospital and eventually to the Tagum City Prosecutors Office for inquest proceedings.

We repeat: accusing Ocampo, who is all of 79 years old, of trumped-up charges of kidnapping and human trafficking is preposterous. We demand that the Talaingod PNP withdraw its charges against Satur Ocampo and he is set free immediately.

We warn the Duterte government that detaining an elderly journalist who is only acting on his convictions that are well within his rights would earn the greater condemnation of the journalistic community in the Philippines and the world. #

Talaingod PNP charges Castro, Ocampo and others with kidnapping

Davao del Norte police arrested ACT Teachers Party Representative France Castro, former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo and 17 other human rights defenders who tried to rescue 74 victims of forced evacuation in Talaingod town and are being brought to Tagum City for inquest proceedings.

In an alert, human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region said the 19 were illegally arrested and are being arbitrarily detained for nearly 18 hours already on malicious charges of kidnapping and human trafficking.

Members of the ongoing National Humanitarian Mission that included Castro and Ocampo rushed to Talaingod Wednesday night to bring food and other aid to Lumad civilians and students of the Salugpongan Ta Tano Igkanugon Community Learning Center in Sitio Sinilaban, Barangay Palma Gil.

Before reaching the community, however, they learned that members of the notorious Alamara paramilitary group under the command of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army forcibly closed the school and harassed students and teachers.

This forced the community to trek to Barangay Sto. Niño but were blocked by a combined army and police force.

On their way to meet the evacuees last night, vehicles used by mission delegates were hit with stones and their tires were punctured by spikes placed on the road.

At about 9:30 last night, the evacuees and mission members were taken to the police station in the area where they were detained.

Castro said they tried lodging complaints with the police but were told they themselves were subjects of investigation.

Earlier today, the police informed the group they are being charged with kidnapping and human trafficking.

The police convoy that took mission participants from Talaingod to Tagum City for inquest proceedings this afternoon. (Karapatan-SMR photos)

The police took the 19 to Kapalong District Hospital for a medical check-up prior to being subjected to inquest proceedings at the Tagum Prosecutor’s Office this afternoon.

Karapatan national secretary general Cristina Palabay condemned the police for levelling charges against mission participants, including a sitting legislator.

“Ocampo and Castro are being threatened with fabricated charges of human trafficking, when they and other mission delegates were there to provide support and aid to Lumad residents, including children, who are facing daily threats and harassment from the military in the community,” Palabay said.

Karapatan demanded the immediate release of members of the mission and the Lumad students and teachers. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Another humanitarian crisis breaks out in Davao del Norte

A humanitarian crisis again broke out in Talaingod, Davao del Norte as dozens of Lumad students, teachers and civilians fled from their community and trekked under the rain last night in fear of government soldiers and paramilitary who forcilby closed down their school.

At least 79 individuals, including 29 students and 12 teachers fled Sitio Nasilaban, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod after the forcible closure of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning School (STTICLCI) as part of the 56th Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army’s (56IBPA) military operations in the area along with the notorius paramilitary group Alamara.

The Save Our Schools Network reported that as of six o’clock last night, the Alamara forcibly padlocked STTICLCI’s Sitio Dulyan campus, forcing the students, teachers and residents to flee from their community.

About 20 Alamara gunmen were seen loitering around the school’s vicinity, harassing students, teachers and locals as of eight o’clock last night, SOS said.

Meggie Nolasco, Executive Director of STTICLCI, condemned the forcible closure of the school, noting that this is the most recent in a series of attacks against indigenous schools in Mindanao.

“The ALAMARA and the 56th IBPA are criminals. What they did is a clear violation of the people’s right to education. This criminal act perpetrated by State forces is unconscionable,” Nolasco said.

“These schools were built through the initiative and solidarity of indigenous communities to provide education for their children; their efforts deemed necessary on account of years of government neglect,” she added.

Salugpungan students being held at the Talaingod Police Station last night. (Kilab Multimedia photo)

Humanitarian mission attacked

The evacuees as well as members of the ongoing National Humanitarian Mission were blocked at Sitio Upaw and are being held by the said army unit, the Talaingod Philippine National Police  and the Municipal Social Work and Development Office at Barangay Sto. Niño police station since arriving at about 9:30 last night.

ACT Teachers Party Representative France Castro and former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo are with the evacuees and refused to leave the police station until the victims are allowed to proceed to Davao City.

The mission wanted to bring food and other aid to the students after receiving receiving reports of the school’s closure by the military and Alamara.

Rep. Castro reported that their vehicle’s windshield was hit by a stone thrown by an unidentified suspect and gun shots were also fired while they were on their way to Sitio Sinilaban yesterday.

“Mabuti na lamang nakaharang ang windshield kaya hindi tumagos ang bato. At may nagpapaputok pa ng dalawang beses doon sa lugar namin,” Castro said.

Two other vehicles used by the mission suffered punctured tires due to spikes placed on the road, she revealed.

Castro added that when they tried to file a report with the Talaingod police, they were told that they will be the ones who will be subjected to an investigation instead.

“We are practically being detained here. What they are doing to us is already harassment,” Castro said.

Castro said that no one among those they contacted for help, including provincial officials and offices came to their aid.

The Lumad schools have been repeatedly maligned by the military and the paramilitary as schools put up by the revolutionary New People’s Army.

President Rodrigo Duterte also repeatedly ordered the indigenous peoples’ communities to close down their schools and leave their ancestral lands.

““Umalis kayo dyan, sabihin ko sa mga Lumad. Bobombahan ko iyan, isali ko iyang mga istraktura. I will use the Philippine Air Force,” Duterte said in a press conference after his 2017 State of the Nation Address. (Leave the area, I will tell the Lumad. I will bomb you, including the structures.)

The indigenous peoples in the area said the harassments they suffer are to pave the way for the entry of large-scale mining operations in their mineral-rich ancestral lands. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lumad schools decry continuing attacks under Duterte govt

Attacks on Lumad schools remained vicious under the year-old Rodrigo Duterte government, up to 80 percent of reported cases happening in the President’s home region of Southern Mindanao, a network of Lumad schools reported.

Lumad schools continued to suffer threats, harassments, intimidations, vilifications, red-tagging and surveillance in the first year of the Duterte government, the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network in a report said.

SOS added there have been five incidents of extrajudicial killings related to the operations of the schools perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its paramilitary units in the past 12 months. Read more

Medical mission threatened by Alamara on their way back to Davao City

BELEAGUERED participants of the 31-member National Medical and Solidarity Mission to Talaingod, Davao del Norte province are currently on their way back to Davao City after being stranded due to threats by the notorious paramilitary group Alamara yesterday.

Save Our Schools Network spokesperson and mission participant Rius Valle said on his Facebook page that the remaining members of their mission stranded in Sitio Nasilaban in Barangay Palma Gil have been fetched by Talaingod Councilor Alfredo Dao-an who escorted them to the town center.

The mission was forced to spend Sunday night at Nasilaban after the Alamara led by Joven Salangani threatened hired motorcycle drivers and ordered them not to fetch mission members.

“Do not fetch them or you will be hurt,” Salangani told the drivers, the mission’s alert said yesterday.

Valle said Salangani is a dangerous fugitive, accused of killing 15-year old Salugpongan School student Alibando Tingkas last January 2016.

“I wonder why he is still at large,” Valle said.

The Alamara was reported to have been created and trained by the 60th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Mission participants and members of the rescue team from UP Mindanao filed a blotter report with the Municipal Police Station upon reaching Talaingod town proper, Valle reported.

Cholera epidemic

Volunteer medical professionals, social workers, teachers and students from the University of the Philippines-Mindanao as well as representatives of people’s organizations and government agencies conducted the medical and solidarity mission to investigate a cholera epidemic that victimized the Lumad community in the area since November.

Twenty-seven were reported to have died from the epidemic.

The mission delivered medical services to around 2,000 families in the area, participated by personnel from the Fr. Fausto Tentorio Foundation, Council for Health and Development, Redemptorist Church-Baclaran, Mindanao Foundation for Medical Disaster Prepared and Response, Davao Medical School Foundation students, Family Planning Organization of the Philippines-Kidapawan and the Association of Pre-Medical Students of UP-Mindanao.

The mission also conducted a relief operation with the support of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Salugpongan Learning Center, PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organization, Department of Social Work and Development, the Makabayan bloc at the House of Representatives, Holy Cross of Davao College students and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU).

The mission a held a children’s activity as well, facilitated by the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, SOS, UP Mindanao Anthropology students, and the National Youth Commission.

Valle thanked Sitio Nasilaban leaders and residents, KMU members and Salugpongan students who provided security overnight as well as government officials and concerned groups who facilitated their extraction from the area.

The mission is expected to hold a press conference upon reaching Davao City later today. (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured photo by Rius Valle-Save Our Schools Network)

 

 

NPA to Duterte: You have been deceived, ridiculed

THE NEW PEOPLE’S ARMY (NPA) said that President Rodrigo Duterte was deceived by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) when it claimed the ambush that killed one paramilitary trooper and injured four others in Bagnakan, Sitio Muling, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte last July 27 was unprovoked.

In response to Duterte’s demand to explain the ambush, NPA ComVal-North Davao-South Agusan Subregional Command’s spokesperson Aris Francisco said in a statement that the Civilian Auxilliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) under the 72nd Infantry Battallion of the Philippine Army and Alamara paramilitary troops were engaged in an active combat operation when they were ambushed by the NPA. Read more