DAVAO CITY, Philippines—A church-based group decried the arrest of five members of the Banwaon tribe of Agusan del Sur including a field worker of European Union-funded project for indigenous peoples’ rights.
Julito Rivera Otacan, together with five other Banwaon community members, Alejandro Barluado, Jonas Acosta, Noli Tahudan, Marlon Talatayod, and Joel Trasona, were arrested on Friday morning, October 27 in Barangay Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur, according to Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-North Mindanao Region.
The RMP said government forces arrested them Friday morning after finding grenades, firearms, and other equipment in their possession. The group said since the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, government troops have been conducting surveillance on Otacan.
The RMP said Otacan is a field worker of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines while his companions were all members of the Banwaon peoples’ organization called Tagdumahan.
Maridel Fano, program coordinator of RMP-NMR’s Rural Poor Organizing Support Program and supervisor of the Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Human Rights in the Philippines said that Otacan’s work involves “going around the Banwaon communities in Agusan del Sur, to organize and facilitate the training of community members in their capacity as human rights defenders.”
The group said the Tagdumahan organization was targeted by the military because of their vocal assertion of their rights to the Banwaon’s ancestral domain targeted by logging and mining companies.
The Protect and Promote Indigenous Human Rights in the Philippines is a project funded by the European Union and implemented by the RMP and Relief International.
As of posting, the group said Tahudan was brought to the battalion headquarters of the 26th IB in Poblacion, Talacogon, Agusan del Sur, while the rest were brought to the Police Station in Rubako, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.(davaotoday.com)