BAGUIO, Philippines – Two activists in the province of Cagayan are the latest reported victims of enforced disappearance attributed by human rights groups to state security forces.
Citing reports from the community, Karapatan Cagayan Valley accused troops from the Philippine Army’s 501st Infantry Brigade of taking peasant and youth organizers Michael Cedrick Casaño and Patricia Nicole Cierva. The rights group alleged in a May 25 bulletin that the soldiers captured them alive on May 18 in Barangay Cabiroaoan, Gonzaga town.
“Friends and former colleagues are concerned for their safety under the hands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that declares it will crush the revolutionary movement in the northeastern part of Luzon by all means. We wish to remind the AFP even wars have rules of engagement,” the group said.
“Respect the right to due process of Cierva and Casaño…. If the military sees they err in their actions, charge them appropriately in court and challenge their principles on just grounds,” Karapatan added.
Soldiers under the 501IB have been conducting an offensive against the New People’s Army in Cagayan since February. According to the military, their operations have resulted in the death of six alleged communist rebels and the capture of five others.
Government troops also confiscated 36 firearms, which include six high-powered guns recovered in the same place where the two went missing. Barangay Cabiraoan in Gonzaga, Cagayan, on May 18.
Casaño, who served as the Kabataan Partylist coordinator for Isabela from 2013-2015, is a former philosophy student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. He was also an active campaigner for the “Green Platform” in Cagayan, which was ravaged by black sand mining operations at that time.
Cierva was a UP Manila Development Studies student and the former councilor of the student council and secretary general of KASAMA sa UP, the system-wide student council alliance. She also chaired Kabataan Partylist chapters in UP Manila (2016-2017) and the National Capital Region (2018-2019).
“Nagsagawa siya ng kanyang practicum sa Cagayan Valley noong 2019 at nanatili na rin doon para maglingkod naman sa mga magsasaka ng Cagayan Valley,” Kabataan Partylist said in a statement.
(She was on her practicum in Cagayan Valley in 2019 and decided to stay to serve Cagayan Valley farmers.)
Their disappearance came less than a month after the reported abduction of UP Baguio alumni Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil De Jesus in Taytay, Rizal.
In a social media post, Leon Dulce, Legal Rights, and Natural Resources Center Campaign Support Coordinator and former National Coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, recalled working with Casaño and Cierva, calling them “true environmental heroes.”
“Kasama ko si Cedric noon sa aming environmental and social risk appraisal sa pagmimina ng black sand sa Cagayan noong 2012. Si Pat naman, nakasama ko sa pag-aayos ng case consultation sa mga kasamang Tuwali laban sa minahan ng Oceanagold kundi ako nagkakamali around 2018,” the post said.
(I worked with Cedric during the environmental and social risk appraisal of the black sand mining in Cagayan in 2012. Meanwhile, I was with Pat when we prepared a case consultation with our Tuwali comrades against the mining of OceanaGold, if I am not mistaken.)
The Environmental Defenders Congress said he was one of the 2015 International People’s Mining Conference delegates.
“Cedric was a youth whose environmentalist principles led him to join the staunch opposition against the irresponsible open-pit mining at the Didipio gold and copper mine of the OceanaGold Corporation and magnetite mining in the coastal Cagayan Valley,” the statement read.
The All UP Academic Employees Union – Manila Chapter (AUPAEU-Manila), KASAMA sa UP, and other progressive groups have called on authorities to surface Casaño and Cierva immediately.
“Cierva and Casaño’s arrests and disappearance also shows the pattern of continued attack against the activists from the University of the Philippines…. [Their] apprehension verifies the furtherance of the attacks on activists, teachers, and unionists from the university perpetuated by the government,” the union said.
They also urged UP President Angelo Jimenez and UP Manila Chancellor Carmencita Padilla to support the campaign to locate Cierva and determine her condition.
UP Manila appeals
In a statement, the UP Manila expressed concern over the two’s disappearance and said it strongly supported the call for Cierva and Casaño’s immediate surfacing. The UPM also urged the government to assist in their release and ensure the two activist’s safe return to their loved ones.
“We urge all government agencies to adhere to the basic tenets of democracy. We believe that our democracy, won through decades of activism and patriotism, can only be practiced to the fullest when the basic human rights of every Filipino is respected and protected, and these rights include individual safety, dignity, and freedom of speech,” the university said.
The UPM also condemned the red-tagging and other threats against officials, teachers, students, alumni, and personnel of other UP campuses.
“We strongly urge all former and current teachers, students, officials, employees, and friends of UPM to speak out and join the call for the surfacing of not just Cierva and Casaño, but of all those who were wrongly taken and arrested,” the UPM added. – Rappler.com
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