“Sakit kaayo, biktima na gani mi sa Pablo, gidugangan pa gyud ang among problema, (It really pains me. We were already reeling from Pablo. Now, they are giving us more problems),” said Grace Curso, a resident of Monkayo town and one of those charged. She lost her sibling at the height of Typhoon Pablo last December 4.
By MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – After the battle on the streets now come the battle in courts.
Police Senior Superintendent Camilo Cascolan, PNP Provincial Director in ComVal, told Davao Today they filed a case of “public disorder” against Barog Katawhan’s (People Rise Up) leaders Grace Curso, Bello Timdasan and Carlos Trangia; Balsa-Mindanao’s Prof. Mae Fe Ancheta-Templa; environmental rights group Panalipdan’s Juland Suazo; Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s (Bayan) Sheena Duazo; peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas’ Tony Salubre; and Leny Camino.
Cascolan said “public disorder” includes “tumultuous and public disturbance, unlawful utterances and/or alarm and scandal.”
“The least case that we are thinking for is unjust vexation,” Cascolan said, adding that 11 witnesses had already filed their affidavits to bolster the case docketed as XI-01-INB-13A-00024, and filed on January 24 at the Prosecutors Office in Nabunturan town.
The accused were victims of Typhoon Pablo and leaders of road barricade and street protest by more than 5,000 victims of Typhoon Pablo in the national highway in Montevista town, Compostela Valley province last January 15.
For them, their action was legitimate and not illegal.
“Sakit kaayo, biktima na gani mi sa Pablo, gidugangan pa gyud ang among problema (It really pains me. We were already reeling from Pablo. Now, they are giving us more problems),” said Grace Curso, a resident of Monkayo town and one of those charged. She lost her sibling at the height of Typhoon Pablo last December 4.
“This is unjust. Instead of resolving the victims’ problems and heeding to our rightful demands, this is what they’ve done to us,” she told davaotoday.com.
Had the government given us sufficient relief, we would not have trooped to the streets and clamored for food, she added.
For Ancheta-Templa, one of the accused and also a columnist of davaotoday.com, the case filed against her was baseless.
“(DSWD) Sec. Dinky (Soliman) issued a written statement of commitment to deliver 10,000 sacks of rice aside from Governor (Arturo) Uy’s 1,900 family packs and 100 sacks of rice. Such was tantamount to recognizing the legitimacy of the action,” she told Davao Today.
Bayan spokesperson Sheena Duazo said “(T)he demands of Barug Katawhan, the alliance of typhoon survivors, that we supported such as efficiency in relief operations and scrapping of all big mining and logging permits are very legitimate.”
Ancheta-Templa, a registered social worker, said “social actions is constitutionally guaranteed” and in fact part of her orientation in professional work. She added that the demands of such people’s mobilization are immediate needs and strategic as these are of ecological concerns and for the next generation.
“My support indeed expressed Social Work philosophy, methods and tactics,” she emphasized.
“It is actually an attack against thousands of typhoon victims who deserve a sustainable environment and equitable relief services and not harassment through filing of cases,” Panalipdan’s Suazo said.
But PNP’s Cascolan said that they are just doing their job, that is, to file cases against violators of the law, thus, they are not threatening those charged.
“Their demands may be legal but their means are illegal. There is a violation of the law,” Cascolan said.
The government’s filing of cases, according to Suazo, would mean that “the Aquino regime wants to continue the operations of big mining and logging companies despite the huge devastation due to typhoon Pablo.”
Pablo left more than a thousand killed and billons-worth of damages.
“Mr. Aquino is merely protecting the mining and logging companies in Mindanao, by shifting the wrongdoing to the people,” said Vencer Crisostomo, national chairperson of youth group Anakbayan, in a statement.
Crisosomo said large-scale mining and logging operations, as well as banana and pineapple plantations in Pablo-hit areas like ComVal and Davao Oriental are the root of the massive flooding during the storm.
“These companies and the local government should be the ones charged, not the residents who hunger for relief,” Crisostomo said. “Help the helpless, don’t victimize the victim,” he added.
Meanwhile, Suazo said that no amount of repression can stop them and the typhoon victims “to demand justice for the people and environment and to exact accountability of the government and corporations that plundered the environmental resources with impunity.”
He said they are preparing their lawyers and counter-affidavits to confront, what he referred to as “legal harassment.” (With a report from Kai A. Rosello /davaotoday.com)