MANILA — Church workers are calling for the release of Dominiciano “Dioning” Muya, chief agriculturist of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Southern Mindanao (RMP-SMR), saying that the charges and P4.8 million ($107,190) bounty on his head were “concocted.”
On Oct. 16, Muya was riding his motorcycle when he was arrested at a checkpoint by members of the Crime Investigation and Detection Group in Makilam village, Tagum City, Davao del Norte.
The military presented him to the media the next day, with Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson Capt. Alberto Caber claiming that he was a high-ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) charged with several multiple murder cases in Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon. The Army official claimed they confiscated a handgun and a grenade from Muya.
He is currently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon on charges of multiple murder, double frustrated murder, robbery with double homicide and damage to properties, and illegal possession of firearms.
“The 10th Infantry Division, CIDG and the Philippine National Police top-ranks wanted the P4.8 million ($107,190) bounty, which they have concocted for their own reward at Dioning’s expense,” said the RMP-SMR in an emailed statement to media.
“He is not an NPA but an agriculturist who we employed to ensure food, environmental and livelihood sustainability for indigenous communities that have requested for our schools,” Sr. Marisol Garduño Huertas of RMP said in the statement.
Muya, a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at the University of Southern Mindanao, has been an RMP staff since 2007, managing the sustainable agriculture program and school construction of the Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center, a school for indigenous children in the region. Before that, he had been a RMP consultant since 2003.
Muya’s being a Lumad member had helped in their work in the indigenous communities, Huertas said.
The RMP-SMR said his captors also divested Muya of cash and valuables.
“On the day he was arrested, he was canvassing for construction materials for the school’s construction,” said Huertas. “What he possessed that time was the P40,000 ($890) plus budget for construction and laborer’s allowances for the school, his cell phones and a motorcycle.”
The RMP national office called on President Aquino, the police and the military “to effect his immediate release by dropping the trumped-up charges against him.”
The RMP said Muya’s illegal arrest and detention had caused “deep trauma” and “emotional and economic displacement to his wife and young sons who are still studying.” The military’s labelling of Muya as an NPA has also threatened his family who had to find a safer place to stay.
Muya is also diagnosed with hypertension and pulmonary disease, and his family fears that his regular medication is disrupted while in detention.
“Dioning has been serving the great humanity with RMP for a long time. He does not deserve to be treated inhumanely as he is a genuine missionary for the development of rural countryside,” Huertas said.
Meanwhile, the NPA’s Merardo Arce Command denied that Muya is a member of the NPA, and said that his arrest “was a shameless money-making plot of a corrupt Army unit.”
“The AFP manufactured the criminal charges based on pure imagination; it wrongly accused Muya as part of the CPP Southern Mindanao Regional Committee to portray him as its enemy in order to discredit his work in the countryside as a committed educator of sustainable agriculture among IP schools,” said Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the said command.
Attack on schools
Professor Myfel Paluga of the Save our Schools Network said Muya’s arrest is part of the harassment and human rights violations “of the sustained government campaign against our schools and communities.”
Paluga cited the massive displacement and forced evacuation of Talaingod Manobo because of intensified military operations in their communities in April.
Ronnie Garcia, Basic Education head of Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center said: “Since its founding in 2007, it had undergone several harassments from the elements of 60th Infantry Battalion-AFP , by encamping and settling in the schools, accusing the teachers as NPAs, interrogating and conducting psychological warfare tactics to the learners, teachers, administrators and the residents of the community, violating and ransacking their houses, destroying their classrooms and teachers’ cottage, and directly accusing that the schools are owned by communists.”
The Save our Schools Network also reported that soldiers destroyed and ransacked the schools in Sitio KM 30 and sitio Tibucag in Dagohoy village, several times during schoolyear 2013-2014 and in 2010. There was also case in which soldiers interrogated a volunteer teacher and nine students for two hours, forcibly took their pictures and searched their belongings.