Murder, kidnap cases filed vs 69 activists, suspected rebels in Cagayan

TUGUEGARAO, Philippines – At least 69 individuals are facing 3 counts of murder and kidnapping cases over the recent killings of 3 military members in Rizal town in Cagayan province.

In a complaint affidavit acquired by Rappler, as filed by the relatives of PFC Jay Tugao, one of those who were reportedly killed by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in February, the 69 identified personalities have “knowledge and/or participation on the aforementioned crime.”

Among them are members of peasant and progressive groups based in Cagayan Valley region, who the military believed are supporting the operations of guerilla members.

Members of Makabayan, National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP), Karapatan, Gabriela Women’s Partylist and several peasant groups were also identified by the complainants.

David Soriano, a known NPA leader in Cagayan and also a suspect of the killing of late Gonzaga Mayor Carlito Pentecostes, was also included in the list of suspects.

In July, 3 suspected rebels, including two Agtas, an indigenous group from North Luzon, were arrested by the 57th Infantry Battalion in Rizal town.

Last Thursday, October 1, the military group also arrested Renor Danao, also an Agta, who they also tagged as an NPA rebel.

Danao, according to 57th IB commanding officer Lt. Col. Jose Real, was found with an M16 rifle and photos of the two soldiers allegedly killed by NPA members.

Karapatan-Cagayan Valley defended the arrested indigenous people, saying that they are civilians.

‘Trumped-up cases, militarization in town’

Randy Malayao, Makabayan’s Vice Chairperson for Luzon, said the cases were “made-up” by the military to “silence” and “harass” the progressive groups and human rights activists in the region.

“The State is clearly against the position that we are espousing and fighting for,” Malayao said. “Most of those charged are active leaders of people's organizations for the defense human rights; involved in the defense of life, land and the natural patrimony against corporate landgrabbing and plunder.”

Malayao has also been into prison from May 2008 to October 2012 for being the main suspect in killing former Cagayan Governor Rodolfo Aguinaldo. He was later ordered released by the court due to lack of evidence.

He said their situation is no different from the Lumad peoples of Mindanao and all other militarized communities.

Rizal town has been a center of counter-insurgency operations of the military for years now, believing that most of the NPA rebels live in this mountainous area.

At least 3 Agta people have been held by the military this year, Malayao said.

“We demand that trumped-up charges against us be immediately withdrawn. That human rights defenders and progressive mass leaders be able to carry out our work without interference, intimidation or baseless criminal charges against us,” he said. – Rappler.com