DAVAO CITY – Thirteen civilians, including minors and members of a local indigenous people’s organization, were reportedly arrested in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon on Sunday and presented to media as captured rebels by the armed forces, a local indigenous peoples’ group said.

Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization said in a statement on Wednesday that they condemn the detention of their members Jovito Anlagan Sr, Emely Anlagan, Jovito Anlagan Jr., Charlito Eslaw, Charito Eslaw and Krisibel Eslaw at the Manolo Fortich Police station.

Two other civilians on board their vehicle were also detained.

Roger Plana, secretary general of Kalumbay said, the group were seized by elements of the 1st Special Forces Battalion and Regional Public Safety Battalion on Sunday evening in Alae, Manolo Fortich.

Plana, in a text message to Davao Today, also said the five minors (four girls and one boy) who were aged 17 years old, 15, 13, 11 and 7 were freed today, three days after they were detained.

Plana said the civilians were relatives of Kalumbay staff, Melvy Anlagan.

“As far as we know Melvy’s parents and relatives are innocent civilians,” Plana said. Plana said “they are Higaonon farmers from Sitio Sil-ipon, Libona, Bukidnon.”

“In fact Emely Anlagan, Melvy’s mother, used to work as the caretaker of the Baranggay day care center for some time. How can they find the time to wage guerilla warfare in the mountains while attending to their crops and do day time jobs at the same time?” asked Plana.

Melvy Anlagan said her parents were supposed to go to Cagayan de Oro City to seek refuge as they were harassed by Army soldiers on several occasions.

“Army soldiers were conducting a meeting in our community earlier in that day and in that meeting an army officer implicated some of my relatives as rebels. Six soldiers even went to our house and tried to get my brother without any warrant presented to him. Suspicious of the way the soldiers presented themselves, my father confronted them. Soon after a verbal altercation between my father and an officer of the 1st Special Forces battalion erupted, which ended when the soldier punched my father on his stomach,” Anlagan.

“My parents were terrified of the incident that is why they, including five of my siblings, wasted no time and left our home in a hurry. I feared that the physical harassment of my father was just a first and that if they stayed any longer in our community even greater harm will be done to them,” Anlagan said saying that she was the one who asked them to leave.

“My parents, siblings and relatives are innocent. As to how state forces came up with the evidence to present them otherwise is beyond my comprehension!” Anlagan said.

Plana said that presenting civilians as rebels “is just part of a grand scheme of the government in deliberately blurring the lines between armed and parliamentary forms of legitimate dissent.”

Plana said he was not surprised when soldiers presented Anlagan’s parents as rebels citing that the armed forces “misrepresent things”.

“As in the past, they lied that an encounter with rebel groups occurred when they massacred four Lumads at Bugna, Casinglot, Tagoloan last month and when they shot foreign bird watchers at Mt. Kitanglad last February,” Plana said.

Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu) spokesperson Piya Macliing Malayao condemned the incident, describing it as the “dirtiest tactic” of the military to silence activists and outspoken government critics.

“To hurt, incarcerate, and defame your family because you are an activist is the lowest of blows the military has done in a while. It is a reflection of the state of democracy in Aquino’s administration,” Malayao said.

Katribu’s records show 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.

“We demand that the military release these people on account that they are innocent civilians. They are being used as leverage to harass [Melvy], this should not be allowed to happen,” Malayao said.

Kalumbay said they are calling for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and cause-oriented groups to hold independent probe on the incident. (davaotoday.com)

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