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Tribes reject large dams in Balbalan and Pinukpuk, Kalinga

By Rod Asurin

TABUK CITY–Six tribes in upper Kalinga province declared opposition to large dam projects in two of the country’s cleanest bodies of water, the Saltan and Cal-oan (Mabaca) rivers.

Around 200 representatives from the Salegseg, Poswoy, Dao-angan, Ab-aba-an and Mabaca tribes in Balbalan town and the Limos tribe in Pinukpuk gathered last August 27 in an assembly to declare their rejection of additional hydro-electric projects in the area.

SUMKADD (Rise and resist): Representatives of five tribes in upper Kalinga province gather in an assembly to oppose three more hydropower dams in their sacred rivers. (Supplied photo)

The tribes said the proposed projects threaten their sources of livelihood and are destructive of the environment.

Australian-owned JBD Water Power Inc. (JWPI) is contracted by the Department of Energy to construct large dam projects along the Saltan and the Cal-oan rivers.

The Saltan drains the Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park, one of the country’s largest protected areas and a sanctuary to a large number of endemic plants and animals.

Cal-oan is also known in the area as the Mabaca River after the Mabaca Tribe that owns the waterway.

JWPI projects in the province are the 49 megawatt Saltan D, 45 megawatt Saltan E, and 40 megawatt Mabaca River hydropower projects it claims are for the empowerment of the people of the province, all in the pre-development stage still.

The tribes said they were told by JWPI in consultative assemblies the dams would be as high as 50 meters but the company has yet to fully disclose complete project designs for their approval.

Assembly representatives sign the unity statement last August 27 against more dam projects in Kalinga province. (Supplied photo)

In a unity statement, the tribes said, “We believe that these hydro-power projects pose great destruction to our communities. It destroys our land, environment, source of livelihood and communities’ unity.”

ALSO READ: Anti-dam activist abducted for protecting Saltan River

Earlier, the Pinukpuk municipal council passed Resolution No. 22, series of 2022, opposing Saltan E’s construction, stating the project will cause physical and material damage to residents, including economic and environmental loss.

“This opposition is meant to protect the lives and properties of the individuals and the community from potential hazards, and to prevent possible disaster or tragedy,” the resolution reads. #

From bodong to electricity

A remote Isneg community enjoys 2 decades of renewable energy

[FIRST OF TWO PARTS]

A special report by Raymund B. Villanueva

BARANGAY Katablangan had just been vacated by government soldiers after months of occupation sometime in 1988. For months before they abandoned their community, the Isneg (alternately called Isnag) residents had been witness to intense and numerous firefights between government soldiers and New People’s Army guerillas after peace negotiations between the Corazon Aquino government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines collapsed. When the fighting became too intense, too frequent and dangerously close to the community, and the soldiers decided to use them as shields by encamping right in their midst, they were forced to evacuate their village.

Katablangan women carrying stones and gravel for community enhancement projects. (Photo by Engr. Jaymart Erasquin/SIBAT)

The residents returned after six months and found only desolation and ruin. The crops they left behind when they hurriedly evacuated have all withered away while their animals have either been butchered by the soldiers or have gone feral. All their houses needed repairs. The barrio, once idyllic albeit poor, was at lowest point in the residents’ collective memory.

It took nearly seven years for Katablangan to fully recover. It took the community that long for them to repair their houses, take up farming again and try to live the normal lives they once had. Livelihood however remained difficult, forcing then 33-year old Dalmacio “Dalma” Lugayan to seek employment as Department of Environment and Natural Resources reforestation employee in Mindoro and Palawan. But as among leaders of the community, he eventually had to return and lead its recovery. He was elected chairperson of the Katablangan Upper Farmers’ Organization the community organized upon its formation.

When normalcy returned, Katablangan’s pangat (tribal leaders) thought it was time to renew their bodong (peace pact) with fellow Isnegs in nearby communities. In 1995, Dalma was among those who trekked across a mountain range to Barangay Dulao in neighboring Malibcong, Abra. Peace among the Isnegs must be preserved and strengthened to allow them to continue their recovery, they thought. With him was his elder brother Benito (Beni), currently Katablangan’s barangay chairperson.

Katablangan village elder Dalmacio Lugayan (Photo by R. Villanueva/Kodao)

At Dulao, they were amazed at the electric light bulbs at each of houses in the village. Their hosts then showed them one of the earliest micro-hydropower projects for electricity generation in northern Cordillera. When they returned to Katablangan, they were carrying home with them a new pagta (budong agreement) and a Barangay Dulao resolution addressed to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tabuk endorsing the construction of a similar project in Katablangan.

 “We were so envious of Dulao’s micro-hydro power plant that we were only thinking of how to build one of our own,” Dalma said.

Remote, beautiful

The barangay’s main sitio called Upper Katablangan is about 20 kilometers from Conner town proper in Apayao through a steep, narrow and dangerous dirt road that runs parallel and repeatedly crosses Matalag River. The river is a major tributary of the Chico River that is a tributary of the mighty Cagayan River itself, the country’s longest and biggest. Fed by forest streams on parts of the Cordillera yet undamaged by logging and mining companies, Matalag’s cold waters run swift and strong, burbling its winding way down to the Chico. Swidden farms have been hacked out of the forests where the topography allows, but Matalag’s banks are mostly steep on which precariously perch the narrow and muddy road that leads to Katablangan, often broken by brooks created by dozens of waterfalls along the way.

The Matalag River behind Upper Katablangan’s micro-hydro power station. (R.Villanueva/Kodao)

Katablangan lies at the end of that road, on a narrow bowl-shaped valley carved from the mountains by the river. Because of its elevation, fog greets Katablangan most mornings while low-lying clouds usher evenings earlier. Summer heat is tempered by the shade the mountains blanket the community with. At the edge of a village runs Matalag’s headwaters that feed the people with freshwater delights such as wild river crabs and the northern favorite igat (river eel). Pako (fern) and other edible plants still grow abundant that residents pick on their way home from a refreshing dip to go along with meat from wild boars and deer that remain abundant in the surrounding forests.

The Isnegs of Katablangan are farmers who plant rice and corn, crops they bring downstream to sell to traders after each harvest. They are also skilled wood and rattan-workers, spurred by lumber judiciously harvested from the surrounding mountains. Their basi (sugarcane wine) have also become famous outside of Conner.

Still, the Katablanganons wanted electricity, just like their fellow Isnegs in Dulao.

Six years of building

In 1996, Katablangan finally sent delegations to talk to the Catholic parish priests of Conner as well as Kabugao and Tabuk in now separate Kalinga province to learn more about renewable energy projects such as in Dulao. They learned other communities in Kalinga and Abra have started their own micro-hydro projects and became more determined to have their own. They were told to contact the group Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya (SIBAT) that provided technical assistance for the construction of the Dulao micro-hydro project.

Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya [SIBAT] engineer Jaymart Erasquin [standing] with Isneg micro-hydro project operators in Apayao Province. (R. Villanueva/Kodao)

That same year, SIBAT engineer Cris Alfonso and Catholic missionary Bro. Aloi Goldberger visited Katablangan twice to conduct feasibility studies. After their second visit, the two experts instructed the community on how to begin preliminary works after concluding that Katablangan is ideally suited for a micro-hydro electricity project.

“We were so excited that hardly did the two rounded the bend out of our village that we started building our mini-dam and digging the canal to where we would eventually construct our power station,” Dalma said.

Dalma and Beni then travelled to Baguio City the next year to attend a SIBAT seminar on renewable energy and micro-hydro electricity projects. On their way home to Conner, they already had HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) pipes that men folk had to carry on their shoulders up to Katablangan for two days.

It took the community four years to construct the dam and the canal towards the power station. Aside from their labor, the community cut trees for lumber as their contribution to the project. They built a cement platform for the machinery and a small building for the power station. The community’s remoteness prevented them from bringing motorized machines to help them; everything had to be done by hand. An elder who insisted on doing his share even suffered a heart attack while digging and died. A doubting barangay councilor even vowed to have one of his ears cut off if the project would materialize.

Residents carrying HDPE pipes to Katablangan that help channel water from their dam to the generators. (J. Erasquin/SIBAT)

By 1999, the dam, canal and power house were finally finished and passed inspection. Tall wooden posts on which wires would bring electricity to the houses were put up. SIBAT, led by engineer Pol Tabiolo, then arrived with a turbine, dynamo and wires. They installed the machinery that was designed for 7.5 kilowatts, enough to provide the basic and initial electricity needs of Katablangan.

It took almost a year from there to connect the wires from the power station to the individual houses and attach electricity meters in each of the 42 households in Upper Katablangan at the time. The entire community also underwent a series of workshops and meetings to appoint and train those responsible in clearing the dam of flotsam and jetsam that may clog up the pipes and destroy the generator. A power station manager was appointed, responsible for overseeing the equipment. They also appointed a bill collector for the P50 a month per household with electricity connection.

A week before the project went online, the doubting councilor saw that Katablangan’s micro-hydro electric project would really materialize. He butchered pigs to feed the workforce, asking only that his promise to have his ear cut off was never mentioned again. Dalma said it got mentioned during drinking sessions nonetheless.

A Katablangan home is retrofitted with newer wires and an electricity meter as part of a maintenance activity. (J. Erasquin/SIBAT)

The entire community was excited the day the generator went online and electricity was supplied to the houses for the first time. “The children ran from the power house to their homes, wanting to be the ones to switch on the lights,” Dalma said. “That night, they played in the barangay clearing way past their usual bedtime while their elders played the gongs that echoed around the mountains throughout the night,” Beni recalled. #

[NEXT] PART 2: ELECTRICITY THAT DOES NOT DESTROY THE ENVIRONMENT

(This story was produced with support from Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.)

Lumad teacher arrested in Surigao, farmer-couple missing in Negros

Groups reveal continuing rights violations under new Marcos government

A Lumad volunteer teacher was arrested by the police in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur last Sunday while a farmer-couple were taken by government soldiers in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental last Friday, various groups reported.

In an alert, human rights group Karapatan-Caraga said Gary S. Campos was arrested by police officers while on his way to a review center at about one o’clock in the afternoon and was taken by his arresters all the way to Butuan City, Agusan del Norte.

Succeeding to contact friends only at about eight o’clock that evening, Campos told them he was presented with a warrant of arrest by the police but was unable to disclose the nature of the charges, Karapatan said.

Campos is preparing to take the professional licensure examination for teachers and is currently a volunteer teacher at a local Department of Education school.

A Lumad Manobo, Campos was an alumnus of both the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), Lumad schools that have been the victim of military and paramilitary occupation, arson, harassment, closure and killing of its officials and other volunteer teachers throughout the Rodrigo Duterte administration.

Upon graduation, he volunteered as a TRIFPSS teacher.

When the government and the military closed down the Lumad schools, Campos went back to college and graduated with an education degree from St. Theresa’s College-Tandag as a scholar of the Indigenous People’s Apostolate of the Catholic Diocese of Tandag.

Farmer-couple missing

Meanwhile, a farmer-couple were taken from their home in Himamaylan City by government soldiers in the dead of night last July 15, the underground New People’s Army (NPA) announced on social media.

Geral Ganti and partner Dalen Alipo-on, both members of the local Mahalang Farmers’ Association were taken by troopers of the 94th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) from their home at 11:30 at the evening and have not been seen since, Mt. Cansermon Command-NPA spokesperson Dionesio Magbuelas said.

Magbuelas said that about 20 soldiers arrived in the community, forced the couple from their house and were later taken away on board motor vehicles.

Relatives of the couple have reportedly informed the police of the incident but have not been informed of their whereabouts in the last four days since the abduction.

The couple have two young children, the NPA said.

Magbuelas added that the couple have been repeated victims of red-tagging by the military and have also been told to submit themselves to authorities as so-called NPA surrenderees.

94th IBPA’s Facebook page has no post related to the allegation.

The NPA challenged local government officials in Negros Island to look into reports of human rights violations in their areas. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

SOS: New Bataan Massacre victims waylaid on Wednesday night, not Thursday as military claims

The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network revealed more details in the death of two volunteer teachers, a community health worker and their two drivers last week in what human rights groups call the New Bataan Massacre.

SOS said volunteer teachers Chad Booc and Gelejurain Ngujo II, volunteer health worker Elgyn Balonga and their two still unidentified drivers were victims of another massacre of Lumad and their defenders by the military.

The group reported the victims were on their way back to Davao City after a community visit and research work when waylaid by the military.

SOS said the last time anyone has heard from the victims was about 9:30 in the evening of Wednesday, February 23 when Balonga requested her family to come fetch them once they are back in Davao City.

In a public announcement last Friday, the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army said that the five were New People’s Army rebels that engaged them in a 15-minute firefight Thursday, February 24.

The Philippine News Agency report on the military’s announcement did not mention a time of incident.

The SOS however said residents told them that no firefight happened last Thursday, an information confirmed by the Communist Party of the Philippines that said the NPA unit in the area denied such occurrence.

“We strongly assert that the victims were community volunteers and civilians from varying backgrounds, and their murder must merit the strongest condemnation,” SOS said.

Who were they?

Booc’s life as an activist and volunteer teacher in a Lumad school was well-documented in media articles and interviews.

READ: UP cum laude answers call to teach Lumad students

His prominence earned for him red-tagging attacks by government officials and institutions who alleged he was an indoctrinator and recruiter of young Lumad to join the NPA.

He was from a middle class background and a University of the Philippines cum laude graduate with a degree in computer science.

“He turned down a career and life of comfort and became a volunteer teacher. In 2016, he volunteered to be a teacher for ALCADEV in Surigao del Sur,” SOS said.

WATCH: Altermidya interview of Chad Booc

The Bakwit School is the roving program for Lumad students fleeing from the militarization of their communities and the forcible closure of their schools. It had been held in Davao City, Cebu City and Metro Manila and hosted by education institutions, churches and the Commission on Human Rights.

In 2021, Booc was one of the petitioners against the government’s controversial Anti-Terror Law before the Supreme Court.

Like Booc, Nguho was a college graduate who had earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education majoring in English from the Liceo de Davao – Briz Campus in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.

“He came from a humble family of farmers and was known for being patient and soft-spoken,” SOS said of the second victim.

Immediately after graduating, Nguho became a teacher at the Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao (CTCSM).

After a year, he decided to become a volunteer teacher for the Bakwit School in Manila in 2018, and then in Cebu in 2019 and 2020.

“Like Chad, he was also a recipient of threats and intimidation from state forces for his work as a volunteer Lumad school teacher,” SOS said.

Balonga meanwhile was a community health worker who served at the Lumad sanctuary at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines compound in Davao City from 2013 to 2018.

Balonga facilitated internships by medical students at the sanctuary, SOS.

“Elgyn was active in numerous medical missions in remote areas such as Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte. She lived a life of service for the Lumad, farmers, and workers,” the group added.

“Throughout their years of service, Chad, Jurain, and Elgyn had been subjected to threats, harassment, intimidation, including death threats, red-tagging and terror-tagging, and surveillance. It is then even more deplorable that the people who take up the initiative to serve in far-flung communities, where the Duterte government cares little to address the needs of its residents, are targeted and killed,” SOS said.

Widespread condemnation

Human rights and activists groups held a condemnation rally at the Commission on Human Rights’ Jose W. Diokno Park in Quezon City last Saturday to condemn the killing of the victims.

SOS Cebu’s indignation rally on the killing of volunteer teachers, a health worker and their two drivers. (SOS Network Cebu photo)

The Cebu chapter of the SOS Network led a similar condemnation rally in the city on Sunday, February 27.

SOS Cebu spokesperson Meg Lim said the New Bataan 5 Massacre was not the first spate of killings of the Lumad and their advocates.

“Through the years, there had been the Lianga Massacre, the Pangantukan Massacre, the brutal killings of Obello Bay-ao and now, the deaths of 5 unarmed civilians, volunteer teachers and valuable members of the Lumad community,” Lim said.

“The AFP is so (bent) to silence the Lumad that it has repeatedly used the same old narrative of an ‘encounter’ to legitimize its brutal killing of innocent civilians in the mere act of service to their communities,” Lim added.

The Cebu rally was attended by Booc’s family, the group reported.

Nikki, Chad’s younger sister, demanded justice for her brother and the other victims’ deaths through a fair, impartial, and thorough investigation of the incident.

The SOS revealed the families have yet to retrieve the victims’ remains, anticipating possible harassment and intimidation from the military.

“We are calling on all IP rights advocates, friends of the victims, the media, and every Filipino to join us and the families of the victims’ as we ensure that they are brought home,” the group said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Tatlong tula para kay Chad Booc

1. Si Chad at mga Bakwit

Ni Ibarra Banaag

Hininga ang naghihiwalay sa katawang lupa.

Kaluluwa ang nag-uugnay sa diwa at kataga.

Gunita sa himaymay na siyang bulong sa panata.

Tuwing may dugo at luha na dadampi sa madla.

Matamang nangungusap ito sa kamalayan.

Nagsasabing ang buhay ay daluyan lamang.

Kasangkapan ng karunungan at pagmamahal.

Sukdang pumikit ang mata at ito’y mabuwal.

Sino bang tunay na magbibigay ng paghanga.

Di ba’t yaong mga Lumad na pinaglingkuran nila.

Patotoong mababakas sa hinagpis at palahaw,

Kundi pisnging binasa ng dusa at pusong naulila.

Tulad nila ay kislap ng batis sa silong ng buwan.

Bulalakaw sa hinaing at pangarap ng nanibugho.

Ilog na tumatalunton sa malawak na karagatan.

Puno na nagbibigay ng pananalig at kanlungan.

Balabal-ritwal at kasuutan ng mga katutubo.

Awit, sayaw, huni at galaw ng mga ninuno,

Dayuhang narahuyo sa diwatang sinusuyo.

Tadhanang naghatid ng pag-ibig at pagsuyo.

Hindi ka namin ililibing kagaya ng ‘yong hiling,

Kasama ng apat pa, binhi kang sa lupa ikakalat.

Sa lupang pangako kawangis mo’y didiligin

Ng sumibol at yumabong adhikain na hangad.

— Pebrero 26, 2022

2. Hindi lumuluha ang demonyo

(Hinggil sa ‘No tears for terrorists’ ni Dr. Lorraine T. Badoy)

Ni Marlou Abaja

Walang balon ng awa

Walang batis ng malasakit at hinagpis

Walang bukal ng buhay ang katawan

Ng demonyong nagbabalatkayong tao

Walang aagos na luha ng dalamhati

Walang luha ang demonyo

Tinuyo ng apoy ang bawat patak

Bagkus ay pagdiwang sa itim niyang budhi ang nangingibabaw

Sa pagpanaw ng pinaslang na bayani

Walang luha ang demonyo

Kundi galak na hindi makatao.

3. Titser Chad

Ni Raymund B. Villanueva

Pauwi pa lamang mula sa rali–

nag-kober at sumali–

nang malaman ang masamang balita

mula sa lalawigan ng ginto’t dugo

Ayaw munang maniwala

Bakit ba? Napakasama

nakakapanghina

Ngunit possible, bakit hindi?

Madalas talagang maging martir

ang mga dati nang bayani

Adya yata, sa UP ako dumaan pag-uwi

(Bilin ng asawa’y bumili ng lupa sa maghahalaman

sa C5.) Pagliko kanina sa University Avenue

lumingon sa kanan at tinanaw hanggang dulo

ang istatwang dipa’t tingala.

Sa ngayong naluluhang mata

dahil sa iyo, Titser Chad,

si Oble’y tumangkad pa yata.

–3:01 n.h.

25 Pebrero 2022

Lungsod Quezon

‘Chad Booc and 4 others were massacred’ – Save Our Schools Network

It was a massacre that killed a celebrated volunteer teacher and four others in Davao de Oro last Thursday, an indigenous peoples’ organization said.

The Save Our Schools (SOS) Network said the February 24 incident that resulted in the death of University of the Philippines (UP) cum laude graduate Chad Booc, fellow volunteer teacher Gelejurain Ngujo II and three others was “in fact a massacre of civilians.”

In confirming the death of one of its two volunteer teachers, the SOS said Barangay Andap, New Bataan residents confirmed to them that no clash happened between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) at the reported time of the incident.

“And in its attempt to justify these gruesome killings, the armed forces once again twist the truth to play into their narrative as they have done many times before,” SOS said.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) echoed the group’s report, saying the AFP’s “encounter” claim is an outright lie.

“There was no encounter in New Bataan, Davao de Oro, yesterday (Thursday), where the AFP claims it killed activist Chad Booc and four others. This was confirmed to us by the local NPA unit in the area,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena tweeted.

“Indeed, the AFP’s ‘killed in an encounter’ story line has repeatedly been used in the past to cover up the cold-blooded murder of civilians or unarmed people. We urge their family and friends to uncover the facts surrounding their deaths and demand justice for their murders,” Valbuena added.

The 1001st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (PA) claimed it engaged alleged NPA rebels in a 15-minute gunfight that resulted in the death of Booc, Nguho, an alias Daday and two unidentified others.

PA 10th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Captain Mark Anthony S. Tito further claimed government soldiers recovered one M653 rifle, one caliber .45 pistol, one hand grenade, one anti-personnel mine, assorted food supplies, and personal belongings from the victims.

The AFP also publicly released photos of the victims laying bloodied and dead on the ground, a move condemned by the SOS.

“To add insult to injury, the 1001st Infantry Brigade of the AFP has paraded the bodies of the deceased as war trophies. Even to the extent of planting guns and ammunition on the bodies to make it out as if they were combatants who shot at the AFP,” the group said.

“Photos of the deceased are supposed to be taken for the sole purpose of documentation, not as trophies released and paraded without the consent of the families… a testament to the AFP’s disrespect and non-adherence to the CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law),” SOS added, referring to the document signed by the Manila government with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in 1998.

Booc last figured in the news in 2021 when he was arrested in Cebu City after being accused by the military of kidnapping Lumad children and indoctrinating them to take up arms against the Philippine government.

‘Teacher Chad’ forging one of his countless rivers and streams on the way to a Lumad community. (Photo from Chad’s FB account)

Booc however is celebrated in various articles as well as in campaigns for his release as a selfless people’s scholar who chose to dedicate his life to the service of indigenous peoples’ communities.

A cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines with a degree in computer science, Booc worked full time as a volunteer teacher for Lumad schools in Mindanao. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Out of order

Cartoon by Crisby Delgado, PUP/Kodao

At last week’s hearing by the House of Representatives hearing on the raid conducted by the police and the social work department on the Bakwit School at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City last February, Presidential Communications Operations Office undersecretary and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict co-spokesperson Lorraine Badoy showed ignorance of parliamentary procedures and attempted to interrogate other resource persons. She was promptly told that she told that she could not ask questions as she is not a member of Congress. #

DSWD worker taunts, threatens Lumad child as she regains freedom

The Lumad child detained at the social work office in Cebu was finally reunited with her father, but not without further threats and taunts from a social worker, an indigenous peoples’ group reported.

After a standoff between Mikaela Dorothy Haictin’s father Lope and the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD)-Central Visayas office last Thursday, the agency reluctantly honored the habeas corpus order of the local court and released her Friday.

But not without social worker Brenda Abilo taunting and threatening the child just before she regained her freedom, the Save Our Schools Network (SOS)-Cebu said.

SOS-Cebu reported Abilo whispered taunts in the child’s ear, sarcastically saying “she hopes that what Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas said about her becoming an armed rebel will not come true.”

“It is deplorable that Brenda Abilo still managed to make this last minute condescending remark despite all that they at the DSWD-7 have done to the children, from their detention and confinement where the children are greatly restricted and prohibited from contacting parents and lawyers, to the DSWD-7’s refusal to implement a court order for the Lumad child’s immediate release,” SOS-Cebu said.

The group added that what Abilo did was to make clear that she and her office red-tagged the child and truly believe that the children are linked to armed groups.

The act put the lives of the children at even greater risk than ever before, SOS-Cebu said.

Mikaela was finally returned to her father Friday after the Court ordered the Sheriff to serve the Order of Release of Mikay from DSWD detention.

The Cebu chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines filed for a Petition for the Issuance of the Writ of Habeas Corpus and subsequently threatened to file contempt charges against Abilo and DSWD Region 7 officials for refusing to heed the release order.

Earlier, former DSWD secretary Judy Taguiwalo criticized her former colleagues’ “unacceptable” refusal to heed the orders of the court and empathize with the sufferings of the child and her father whose reunion has been blocked again and again.

“The ‘Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles’ reminds social workers to uphold social justice and human rights. They should not be complicit in implementing ‘policies and practices (that) are oppressive, unfair or harmful,’” Taguiwalo said.

Abilo has yet to reply to Kodao’s request for comment. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Four other Southern Tagalog massacre victims identified

Four other massacre victims in last Sunday’s brutal police operations against activists have been identified, all of whom were accused of illegal possession of firearms and explosives like the other five.

Human rights group Karapatan Timog Katagalugan said Dumagat Sierra Madre members Puroy Berhemedo dela Cruz and Randy Berhemedo dela Cruz were shot dead by the police in Sitio Mina, Barangay Sta. Inez, Tanay, Rizal.

Urban poor activists Abner Damas Esto y Mendoza and Edward Damas Esto y Mendoza were also killed by the police in sitio Macaingalan, Barangay Puray, Rodriguez, Rizal as part of the Conduct of Simultaneous Implementation of Search Warrants dubbed COPLAN ASVAL by the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines across four provinces last March 7.

In a separate alert, Gabriela Youth Laguna said the dela Cruzes were killed separately but in a similar fashion.

Quoting Puroy’s wife Minda, Gabriela said the raiders arrived between three to four o’clock in the morning and ordered them to surrender with their alleged firearms.

But even before the dela Cruzes were able to comply the raiders shot at the victim four times and killed him, the group added.

Gabriela added that Randy’s family was violently roused from sleep an hour later when the raiders kicked their door down, ordered his wife Violy and their children out and walk 50 feet away.

As soon as the Randy’s wife and children turned their backs, the victim was shot multiple times, killing him instantly.

No details were provided as to how the Estos were killed.

Like the two others killed in Rodriguez, Rizal at what media groups dub as “Bloody Sunday”, the Esto siblings were members of the red-tagged urban poor group San Isidro Kasiglahan, Kapatiran at Damayan para sa Kabuhayan, Katarungan at Kapayapaan (SIKKAD-K3).

The PNP earlier bragged it killed nine persons last Sunday in a “big score” against alleged communists.

The five other massacre victims earlier identified by Karapatan Timog Katagalugan were:

  • Michael Dasigao and Mark “Mak Mak” Lee Coros Bacasno in Rodriguez, Rizal;
  • Manny Asuncion in Dasmarinas, Cavite; and
  • Couple Anna Mariz and Ariel Evangelista in Nasugbu, Batangas.

The police also declared it arrested six others of the same charge as illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Karapatan Timog Katagalugan said among those arrested was Joan Ignacio Efren of Sitio Lukuang Malaki, San Isidro, Rodriguez, Rizal.

Earlier identified as arrested were:

  • Steve Mendoza and Elizabeth Camoral in Cabuyao, Laguna;
  • Nimfa Lanzanas in Calamba, Laguna;
  • Eugene Eugenio in Antipolo city.

The PNP refuses to identify the nine other target of its operations but human rights groups said one Lito Baez of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Batangas missed being killed or arrested as he was not home when the police raided his house. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Lumad 26 now need real rescue from police, priest implores

The Lumad raided and arrested by the police at a Roman Catholic retreat house inside a university campus last Monday now needs real rescue, a Cebu church leader said.

Fr. Nazario Vocales, Archdiocese of Cebu vicar and executive director of its Commission on Social Advocacy (COSA) called on the government to release the 24 Lumad and two teachers now under the custody of the police.

Vocales said COSA condemns the so called “rescue operation” by the Philippine National Police Regional Office 7 last February 15, adding what transpired was an illegal mass arrest and trespassing.

The priest said the incident was exacerbated by the police’s “terrifying use of force against the Lumad who reside in the premises of the University of San Carlos-Talamban as a venue for their Lumad Bakwit School.”

Vocales recalled that the victims were in a sanctuary provided by the church and with the blessing of Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.

“It was a fitting way to welcome last year’s “2020 Year of Ecumenism, Inter-Religious Dialogue, and Indigenous Peoples,” Vocales said.

Vocales urged Cebuanos to once again express support to the Lumad victims as he urged the police and government workers to resist orders that undermine human rights and dignity.

“They need our help and support once more as the safe space for learning and a sanctuary for the stranded was shattered (Monday) by terrifying and illegal acts,” Vocales said.

Police canard

Twenty-two students, two Lumad elders and two teachers were hauled off in what the police claimed was a rescue operation from a military training school inside the Talamban campus of the University of San Carlos.

No less than PNP chief Debold Sinas claimed that “some of the children told (police) investigators that they underwent some form of warfare training while in the custody of their handlers.”

Sinas and the PNP however were immediately rebuffed by a Cebu City social worker who interviewed the Lumad children.

“We won’t comment on that. The children never said that to us. Nothing about training to be child warriors,” Cebu City welfare officer Annie Suico told Philstar.com

“We interviewed all of the children. They said nothing about being indoctrinated. All their guardians taught them were reading and writing,” Suico added.

Denial of legal service

Meanwhile, Atty. King Perez of the National Union of People’s Lawyers in Cebu said he finally was allowed to briefly talk with some of the Lumad in a police jail Tuesday afternoon.

Perez however complained that the police is making is making it difficult for lawyers to consult with the Lumad, saying they were made to wait for hours Monday afternoon, to no avail.

The police are being overly-strict on health protocols, Perez said, which is a “huge irony, given that they took the children and the elderly from the safety of a retreat house just to detain them in a crowded jail.”

Perez said they will try to secure the release of the Lumad today, Wednesday, if no inquest proceedings were held last night.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it is investigating reports of human rights violations in the incident.

“The (CHR) has already dispatched an investigation team yesterday…to look into the situation involving the alleged rescue of (the) Lumad children,” CHR spokesperson Atty Jacqueline de Guia said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)