Philippines: IP Leaders and Members of Progressive People’s Organization Face Trumped Up Criminal Charges

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    37 indigenous members and leaders of the Manobo indigenous people’s organization Maluhutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sumusunod (MAPASU) (Persevering Struggle for the Next Generation) are currently facing trumped up charges of rebellion, frustrated murder, arson, illegal possession of firearms and explosives and malicious mischief in two criminal cases based on complaints filed by elements of the Philippine National Police in connection with the NPA attack on the Lianga Police Station on April 29, 2011.

    According to Jalandoni Campos, chairperson of MAPASU, they received notice of this case from Karapatan Caraga on March 2012 based on court records of an existing criminal case that was being handled by the organization since May 2011. Names of the MAPASU members were added in the August 2011 amended information of this criminal case. “We were denied due process of law when this case was filed against us. I personally did not receive any notice of this case from the local prosecutor’s office. I was surprised when I found out that there was already a warrant of arrest issued against me and the military was threatening to serve the warrant unless I surrender to them.”, Campos said.

    MAPASU Organization is an organization composed of Manobo indigenous communities in the municipalities of Lianga, San Agustin, Marihatag and Tago in Surigao del Sur. This organization is well-known in the province for its strong stance against the intrusion of mining companies in their communities within the coal, copper and gold-rich Andap Valley Complex. They are also very vocal in exposing human rights violations committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their military operations. They have submitted complaints of human rights violations with Philippine government agencies and international human rights bodies against elements of the different units of the Philippine Army that were assigned to their communities since 2005. In almost a decade of MAPASU’s efforts to build stable communities and schools, in 2005, 19 communities under MAPASU evacuated after intensified combat operations resulted in grave human rights violations such as the killing of Jessie Bacasmas and the enforced disappearance of the four Lumad farmers that were last seen in the hands of soldiers from the 58th Infantry Batallion, Philippine Army (IBPA).

    This was followed by more massive incidents of forced evacuation in 2007, 2009 and 2011. In November 2011, they protested the Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) operations conducted by the 29th IBPA under the command of Col. Henry Robinson that resulted to another wave of evacuation. As a condition to their return to the communities, Col. Robinson signed an agreement with MAPASU that the military would desist from implementing its COPD and leave the implementation of socio-economic projects to the local civilian authority and agencies.

    The filing of trumped up criminal charges leaders and members of progressive people’s organizations is an increasing trend within the Caraga region. Genasque Enriquez, Secretary General of the Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organisasyon sa Caraga (KASALO Caraga) (Organization of Indigenous Peoples Organizations in Caraga) is also facing charges of murder and multiple frustrated murder filed by elements of the 11th Special Action Company and 75th IBPA. This was in connection with an NPA ambush against these operating elements of the military in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur on July 21, 2012. Incidentally, Genasque was a guest in a local radio show in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte on the same date.

    Genasque Enriquez, in his capacity as KASALO Caraga leader and the second nominee of the IP partylist, KATRIBU, is well-known for his stand opposing heightened militarization, corporate mining and commercial plantations that affect Lumad communities in Caraga and the whole of the Philippines. The forced evacuations due to militarization in Mamanwa lumad communities in Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Norte in February to March, 2012 put him in frequent confrontations with elements of the 30th IBPA and Civil Military Operations (CMO) officials of the 4th Infantry Division. In a statement of the KATRIBU National Office, they see this as an old tactic of military to discredit Genasque Enriquez in his participation in the 2013 elections.

    Enriquez said that the malicious filing of criminal charges against lumad leaders and members in Caraga and directly associating them with the New Peoples Army is a planned military stratedy to silence the people. This is part of Operational Plan Bayanihan (Cooperation), the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) of the Philippine Government based on the United States Counter Insurgency (COIN) Guide.

    “Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, massive forced evacuations and other grave human rights violations have resulted the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan, to the detriment of the Lumad in Caraga. The September 13, 2012 shooting of Genesis Ambason, Secretary General of the Banwaon indigenous peoples organization Tagdumahan in Brgy. Binicalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur is another repressive blow to the Lumad in Caraga.”, Eriquez said. “However, instead of weakening us, Genesis’ death has made us more determined to continue the fight against political and economic repression of the Lumad,” he added.

    Amidst this situation, KASALO Caraga, with all the Lumad organizations under it, is asking for the support of the local and international community in calling on the Philippine government to withdraw these trumped up cases against Lumad community leaders and investigate the increased incidence of filing false charges and violation of the right to due process in such cases.

    “These false accusations and criminal cases that we face are meant to silence our protest, to demoralize us in our efforts,” Enriquez said. “But we vow to continue fighting for the respect of our rights as persons and to continue our work for the realization of our genuine development as a people,” he concluded.

    Source: Rural Missionaries of the Philippines