Soldiers Sexually Molested NGO Workers — Gabriela

Nov. 13, 2006

The two women NGO workers allegedly abducted and interrogated by the Philippine military in Tulunan, North Cotabato, last week were also sexually abused by soldiers, the women’s group Gabriela said Monday.

In a statement, Gabriela said:

The militant womens group GABRIELA revealed that the two young women-workers of a non-government organization in North Cotabato were also sexually molested by their military abductors.

According to reports submitted to GABRIELA, on November 4, 2006, Lourilie Naiz, 22, and Mary Bernadette Solitario, 21, both staff of Disaster Response Center (DIRECT) were abducted by plainclothes men armed with.45 caliber pistols. DIRECT is a community-based disaster management institution where Naiz is its field officer in charge of its socio-economic programs for internally displaced peasant families, while Solitario is one of the DIRECTs literacy-numeracy teachers.

The reports stated that the armed men were not only in civilian clothes but they rode motorcycle without a plate number. Naiz and Solitario were forced to get inside a pick-up truck, which also did not have a plate number, and were brought to Camp Sumabat of the 39th Infantry Battalion in Makilala, North Cotabato Province. The motorcycle followed the pick-up truck but turned left and entered the 27th IB Camp at Brgy. New Panay, Tulunan Town of the same province.

The two were blindfolded and detained in separate rooms. Both were interrogated without the presence of a lawyer with interrogators insisting they were members of the NPA. Bernadette, accused by her interrogators of having a hand grenade in her bag and of having participated in the Makilala bombings of October 10 this year, experienced minor physical assault as she was beaten. She was commanded to take off her clothes.

Lourilie, on the other hand, was threatened to be buried alive if she will not admit to her membership with the NPA and her participation in a detachment attack in Brgy. Bituan on November 1. Their interrogation continued overnight.

On the following day, they were forced to take off their clothes while blindfolded. After an hour, Lourilie was transferred to another place about 15 minutes travel from the camp and again, she was interrogated. Bernadette was informed that Lourilie was already buried and was threatened to be the next if she will not admit to being an NPA member. The two met again in the afternoon, and were brought to a physician for a medical check-up, and then they were turned over to the Tulunan Police at around 8 p.m. A certain George Reyes of the ISAFP signed the PNP logbook.

The families of Naiz and Solitario reported to the police about their missing daughters in the morning of November 5. And with their town mayor, they went to the 27th IB camp in Brgy. Kablon, Tupi, South Cotabato, however, the commanding officer of the military unit denied having the two women inside their camp.

Still according to the reports, Lourilie suffered trauma and is still in a state of shock. She is frightened whenever she sees men in uniform, and tinted cars, pick-up trucks and motorcycles. She still trembles every time she recalls her interrogation, her hand being pulled, her transfer to an unrecognized place and how she was made to undress while blindfolded and the hands of her abductors touching her body. Lourilie was also psychologically harmed by the incident especially that the military took a photo of her holding a small placard with CAPTURED and as FSMR LIAISON OFFICER OF THE NPA on it.

Emmi de Jesus, secretary general of GABRIELA, said, We condemn this grave disrespect of the human rights of Solitario and Naiz shown by the military in this incident. Their abduction, illegal detention and sexual molestation by the military is deplorable.

GABRIELA also condemns the militarys statement that the two young women were just invited for questioning. Who does the military want to fool when they claim that the incident was just an invitation if the victims were forcibly taken at gunpoint, blindfolded, threatened, sexually molested and beaten?

This incident is just the latest case demonstrating the militarys grave lack of recognition of due processes and, more especially, of human rights. This is not an isolated case, add de Jesus, citing the illegal arrest and detention of four GABRIELA leaders in Quezon Province on March 2005. The four women leaders of GABRIELA were in community consultations regarding the presence of US troops in the area for joint war games at the time of their abduction.

We likewise denounce the militarys employment of sexual abuse on women arrested and detained. Apparently, employment of sexual molestation is part of the militarys tactic to demoralize and weaken the womens resistance while were being held by the military. Another proof of this is the case of Angie Ipong, a 60-year-old peace advocate who experienced sexual molestation form her military abductors during interrogation and detention. She was also abducted in Mindanao in March 2005.

We demand that military elements and officials involved in the Tulunan abduction be held responsible. We cannot remain silent while these atrocious acts are being committed against women who are deemed as true public servants. The perpetrators cannot simply commit crimes against the people and leave scot-free, de Jesus concluded. ###

November 13, 2006

Reference: EMMI DE JESUS, GABRIELA Secretary General 09173221203, 3712302

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