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Journalist seriously wounded in gun attack

(Updated: 10:00 pm, August 6)

A journalist and human rights defender is seriously wounded after being shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his house in Lagawe, Ifugao at six o’clock tonight, Tuesday, August 6.

Brandon Lee, Ifugao correspondent of Baguio City-based media outfit Northern Dispatch and paralegal volunteer of both the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), was immediately taken to a local hospital for treatment.

He was later transferred to a bigger hospital in the neighboring province of Nueva Vizcaya, a source informed Kodao.

In a statement, the CHRA said the 54th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army frequented Lee’s residence as well as the offices of both the IPM and the Justice and Peace Advocates of Ifugao, of which he is also a member, for weeks prior to tonight’s shooting.

The soldiers gathered data by interrogating and intimidating the organizations’ members and staff, the CHRA reported.

The Philippine Army team was headed by a certain 1Lt Karol Jay R. Mendoza while its Civil-Military Operations head is a certain Lt.Col. Narciso B. Nabulneg, Jr. who both invoked President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70 in their interrogations, the group added.

Duterte’s EO 70 issued last December created a task force to combat insurgency that human rights organizations blame for the killing of activists across the country.

In the task force’s launch in Camp Bado Dangwa in La Trinidad, Benguet last May 24, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police jointly identified Ifugao Province as a “priority target in the anti-insurgency campaign.”

Brandon Lee (Photo from his Facebook account)

In 2015, Lee was among the IPM members and staff accused of being New People’s Army members.

Lee’s media outfit, Northern Dispatch, had also been a victim of red-tagging by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Lee first became Northern Dispatch’s correspondent in 2010.

Other sources told Kodao that Lee’s IPM colleagues are currently under surveillance from unidentified men, preventing them from visiting Lee at the hospital. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Benguet groups condemn harassment of youth leader

BAGUIO CITY— Activist organizations condemn the surveillance and harassment of a Cordillera youth leader by two men suspected to be state security agents.

Benguet indigenous youth leader Rima Mangili-Libongen had been subjected to surveillance, harassment and vilification by suspected state security agents since May this year, the Kabenguetan Agkaykaysa nga Ilaban ken Aywanan ti Biag, Daga, ken Kinabaknang, or Benguet Unite to Defend and Nurture Life, Land, and Resources (Kaiabang) and the Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA)-Benguet Chapter said.

Kaiabang said the two suspects could only aim to intimidate Mangili-Libongen into stopping her leadership and organizing work, which colleagues fear may go beyond stalking and harassment.

Mangili-Libongen is a member of the famed music group Salidummay and Secretary General of Bileg ken Urnos dagiti Agtutubo nga Ybenguet (Buday, Strength and Unity of the Benguet Youth).

A 35-year old mother of three and residing in Ucab, Itogon, Benguet, Mangili-Libongen had been organizing youth and children for the theater arts and the Cordillera people’s movement since her college days at the Benguet State University in the early 2000s.

Mangili-Libongen has been tailed in Itogon where she lives and in this city, with one of the suspects monitoring the proceedings of the youth assembly she facilitated at the Itogon town training center in Bua, Tuding last May 30, the group said.

The harassment reportedly continued until the early morning of June 3 while Mangili-Libongen was at Shopper’s Lane in Baguio City with one of the suspects grabbing her forearm.

The man only released Mangili-Libongen’s arm when shopkeepers and passersby took notice.

The two men immediately left, Kaiabang said.

After the incident, Rima received a text from an unknown number saying, “Marami ka palang pinupuntahang lugar” (So you go to many places).

Alarmed that she may be harassed again, Mangili-Libongen changed her phone number but received another text message on June 8 that said “Tukoy ka na.” (You’ve been pinpointed.)

Impunity under Duterte

The CPA for its part said it could only be state agents who are behind the incidents.

“Comfortable in the impunity afforded them by the present dispensation, the military and police are capable of anything these days – as they were at the time of Marcos’s Martial Law and Macapagal-Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya,” the CPA said.

In April, rights group Karapatan submitted to the United National Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights a list of 47 cases of political extrajudicial killings under the Rodrigo Duterte government.

“These killings are all in the context of the counter-insurgency programs implemented from one regime to another that supposedly seek to end the armed rebellion of revolutionary movements in the Philippines,” Karapatan in its letter said.

“The victims of killings are peasants, indigenous peoples and workers. Many faced harassment and villification by the military because of their advocacy and actions to defend people’s rights and are thus considered as human rights defenders,” the group added. # (Olga Lauzon/Northern Dispatch for Kodao Productions. Featured image from the CPA.)