HR group alarmed over rise of cases of activists gone missing in Mindanao

Feb. 01, 2019

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Karapatan deplores pattern of killings, arrests of civilians recently ‘abducted’ by military or police in Mindanao.

Early this year there are many reported cases of missing activists in Mindanao, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay cites recent cases of human rights violations in Mindanao.

“There is now an ongoing trend of activists going missing, only to be later located in military camps or police stations or worse, dead. After abducting these individuals, the military and the police then spin ludicrous stories that they are either surrenderees or members of the New People’s Army (NPA), or their abduction already ‘cured’ by trumped-up criminal charges. Those who have been killed by suspected State forces are claimed to have been fatalities during armed encounters – another fantastic permutation of the worn-out ‘nanlaban’ narrative. It’s one outrageous lie after the other,” said Palabay.

Last November 12, 2018, four literacy-numeracy volunteer teachers of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) – Northern Mindanao were abducted by elements of the 51st and 81st IBPA. The teachers were identified as Tema Namatidong, Julius Torregosa, Ariel Barluado, and Giovanni Solomon. Human rights groups searched military camps to inquire whether the soldiers are in custody of the teachers. Fifteen (15) days after the teachers went missing, Corporal Rico Ordaneza of the 103rd Infantry Brigade eventually confirmed that they are holding the four teachers. With the help of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the teachers were returned to their families before Christmas.

In Tagum, Davao del Norte, witnesses reported that Racquel Quintano, human rights worker, and spokesperson of Kalumonan, an organization of kins of political prisoners in the Southern Mindanao Region, was abducted in the morning of January 16, 2019. The next day, 1st Lt. Jhocell Asis, Civil-Military Operation officer of the 71st Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA), released a statement that Quintano was in their custody, inside their military camp in Purok 8, Brgy. Nueva Visayas, Compostela Valley. The said unit alleged that Quintano “surrendered” to them and was a revolutionary tax collector of the NPA.

Also, the case of Lumad farmers Emel Tejero and Randel Gallego. Tejero and Gallego went missing on January 24, 2019, after military troops indiscriminately fired at them while on their way home to Km. 16, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. They were with four other farmers when elements of the 36th IBPA mercilessly fired at the – four were able to escape, while Tejero and Gallego went missing. On January 30, the two were found dead and brought to Sitio Neptune, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga.

On January 28, 2019, Lumad leader Datu Jomorito Goaynon and peasant leader Ireneo Udarbe were reported missing by their colleagues after losing contact with the victims while they were on their way to a meeting. But the next day, the Philippine National Police Region 10 released reports that they arrested two top NPA leaders, but these turned out to be Goaynon and Udarbe.

Such is also the case of Sergio Atay Jr., a member of Magbabaul, who went missing after being stopped at a checkpoint by elements of the Regional Public Safety Battalion on the evening of January 28. Atay was on his way home to San Roque, Rizal, Zamboanga del Norte. He was found the next day, January 29, riddled with 5 bullets to the head. Initial investigation also revealed that the victim was tortured and hogtied.

Palabay said that “these atrocities have been on the rise, especially in Mindanao where state security forces have unchecked powers to abuse. The killings are made in cold blood, with victims even tortured before they were killed. Not only were the victims killed, but they were also murdered in cruel and inhumane ways. People’s homes, their communities, and their farms have ceased to be places of comfort and safety. Martial law and state terrorism have turned every aspect of our lives into vulnerable spaces where we can be killed, disappeared, illegally arrested, tortured and harassed at any time.”

“State security forces have long turned into salaried mercenaries and death squads, with the hit list provided by militarists in the government. The Duterte regime, through its implementation of counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, has inflicted unbridled atrocities, one after the other, on the Filipino people. The country is confronted with an onslaught of attacks and it will worsen so long as avowed fascists who have no regard for people’s rights remain in power,” Palabay said. (

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