We deeply abhor the arrest of Joel Q. Yagao, a pillar and long-time member the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines assigned to organize and assist existing peasant organizations in towns of the eastern part of Misamis Oriental, including Gingoog City. Joel—44 years old, married with 2 children—was arrested around 11:00 AM of 08 September 2013 at the compound of the Roman Catholic Church in the town of Villanueva while meeting another lay co-worker in preparation for the month-long commemoration of the October Peasant Month.
The arresting team was led by Capt. Joe Ryan Manalo of the Philippine Army. He was implicated in the pre-2013 elections armed encounter between Mayor Ruthie Guingona’s convoy and the New People’s Army (NPA) in the hinterlands of Gingoog City, and is currently charged of double murder and multiple murder. Joel has been responsible for sound community-based agrarian campaigns in the past five years in the eastern part of Misamis Oriental, assisting organizations like the Balingasag Farmers’ Association and other community-based organizations of peasants under the Misamis Oriental Farmers’ Association (MOFA). Thousands of poor farmers in eastern Misamis Oriental towns benefited from these agrarian campaigns, including efforts to increase farm gate prices of bananas, increase of wages of manghornalay (seasonal agricultural workers) and elimination of usury, among others. We denounce the trumped-up charges against Joel. We denounce this act of judicial harassment to disable Joel from doing his human rights work for the peasants of eastern Misamis Oriental. We call for his immediate release. We criticize the continued harassment and intimidation being inflicted by the state forces to the members of RMP-NMR. Our office and staff have been put under intensified surveillance this year, causing dislocations in our work for human rights in the company of poor farmers and indigenous peoples. We regard with disgust the continued attack against church workers and advocates, farmers and indigenous communities, and all other human rights defenders in Mindanao and the entire country. We condemn the evil structures that perpetuate human rights violations and impunity. With proclaim to carry on our accompaniment of the rural poor in their journey for the fulfillment of life and dignity. We will join and assist thousands of poor farmers and indigenous peoples from Misamis Oriental to march this October Peasant Month to protest landlessness and the sustained persecution of human rights defenders working for land rights and access to resources. Stop persecuting church workers, free Joel Q. Yadao, Now!
(sgd) Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod, MSM, Coordinator
Source: RURAL MISSIONARIES OF THE PHILIPPINES-Northern Mindanao Sub-Region (RMP-NMR)