'Bakwit' leaders charged with trumped up cases

News Release

March 26, 2015

References: Piya Macliing Malayao, Spokesperson, 0917-3631576

Lea Fullon, Public Information Officer, 0998-2972500


Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) reported that trumped-up charges were filed against two of their council members and five others after a "successful campaign" to make the military to pull-out in San Luis, Agusan del Sur.


A petition for a writ of amparo and habeas corpus were filed against Meliza Amado Cuartero, Jomorito Goaynon, Ejoy Precioso, Saguitan Tugay, Julieto Tawide Gomez, Reneboy Helarion Cuartero, and Tina Julieta Tawide by Teddy Tumbaga Ostos a Cafgu member and resident of Mahayhay, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.


Goaynon is chairperson and Tawide is media officer of Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organiasyon sa Caraga (Kasalo) and both are also council members of Katribu.


Organizations implicated in the case local indigenous people organization Tagdumahan, also an affiliate of Katribu, and religious group Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP.)


The lone petitioner said that the seven respondents convinced the community of Banwaon indigenous peoples, including his son's family in Mahayhay, San Luis, Agusan del Sur to flee their homes to escape military and New People's Army clashes in the area. Consequently, Ostos said the respondents are now detaining his son, pregnant wife, and children.


However, Piya Macliing Malayao, Katribu spokesperson said that the evacuation of the Banwaon people was out of their fear of further harassments and human rights violations perpetrated by the 26th IBPA deployed in the area.


"This petition for habeas corpus and a writ of amparo is an act of harassment. The evacuation was a community decision, and in fact an act of defiance against militarization and human rights violation being committed against them by the 26th IB. We are certain that the military, the reason why the lumad people in San Luis, Agusan del Sur decided to evacuate their homes, are behind this ludicrous charge. We are disgusted at the lengths that the military would go to impede us from seeking and asserting our rights," Malayao said.


"The filing of trumped-up charges against the indigenous peoples and human rights workers is a well-worn practice of the military and of large businesses to inconvenience and harass people who oppose and defy of them. However, this recently concocted case against our leaders and supporters takes the cake in absurdity. It is a preposterous case meant to harass, intimidate, and impair the work of our leaders and their organizations in Mindanao," she added.


In the Aquino administration alone, a total of 169 indigenous peoples' leaders and community members from 14 different indigenous peoples communities were filed with trumped-up charges, and experienced illegal arrests and detention according to Katribu.


Malayao also added that they cast serious doubts whether Ostos signed the petition freely. "An investigation must be done if Ostos was under duress or threatened to concede into filing this petition. The accused of detention are well-known and respected community leaders. These people have stood undaunted on the side of the lumads even in the face of harassments and threat to their very lives," Malyao stressed. #