News Release: April 7, 2018
Rafael Ka Paeng Mariano, 09982898052
Cathy Estavillo, 09493466126
On day 1 of international fact-finding mission in Mindanao: Northern Mindanao delegates met with harassment; illegal arrests, trumped-up charges recorded
Malaybalay City – Delegates of the Northern Mindanao team of the ongoing International Fact-Finding Mission to Defend Filipino Peasants’ Land and Human Rights Against Militarism and Plunder in Mindanao, including farmers, church workers, lawmakers and human rights advocates and defenders were met with a total of nine checkpoints on their way to the Malaybalay City, Bukidnon where interviews and focused group discussions were held yesterday, the mission’s first day.
Elements from the Bukidnon Provincial Public Safety Company, Highway Patrol Group, and the 8th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) stationed in different parts of Opol, Misamis Oriental and Malaybalay City held up the team for no apparent reason. The state forces, mostly armed with long firearms, repeatedly checked the delegates identification cards, asked delegates to sign the logbook, and asked for the drivers license and the vehicles’ certificate of registration while photos of the vehicles plate number and of the delegates were taken.
“The series of checkpoints was clearly a tactic to delay and derail the mission. This only shows how desperate the state forces under the Duterte government is in concealing its brutal attacks against the people especially farmers and indigenous peoples. However, these dirty tactics all the more expose the extent of human rights violations perpetrated by police, military and paramilitary troops,” former DAR Secretary and KMP Chairman Emeritus Rafael Mariano said.
Among the cases recorded on the first day of investigation is the illegal and arbitrary arrest of three abaca workers in Misamis Oriental on March 30, 2018. The three were arrested by 16 elements of the 58th IB in full battle gear without knowing the reason. They were brought to the municipal hall of Lagunglong where their names, signatures and fingerprints were gathered. They were released the next day at around 1pm without explanation.
A lumad was also illegally arrested while taking rest in his hut near his farm on the same day. He was illegaly arrested when he bumped into the military forces under 58th IB who were doing their operations in the area. He was detained in the Lagunglong Police Station together with four other illegaly arrested persons. He was eventually charged with illegal possession of firearms for having a shotgun which he uses for hunting. He was released after five days. He is a member of HIMALAG (Hinuosang Mag-uuma sa Lagunlong), a local farmers’ organization.
National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) Secretary General Cathy Estavillo said that the trumped-up charges filed against the farmers were reported to have grave effects on the families of the victims, especially the women.
“Their husbands were forced to stop working in the farm for fear of being illegally arrested. As a result, their wives bear the burden of providing for the family alone. One of them shared that the meager income she earns is not enough to provide for the needs of her family, thus her children are forced even at the young age of fifteen to stop schooling and look for menial jobs,” Estavillo said.
Estavillo added that psychological effects resulting from trauma and distress on their family’s situation was also recorded, including repeated thoughts of taking her own life.
“The experiences we heard from our fellow farmers proves that the unabated militarization due to Martial Law is not serving the interests of the peasantry but only worsens their already impoverished situation. Duterte’s Martial Law has become a weapon used by landlords and multinational corporations to grab the lands of farmers and to suppress the intensifying peasant movement to defend and assert their rights to their lands,” Mariano said. ###