Barug Katungod Mindanao strongly denounces the arrest and detention of 13 members and leaders of sectoral organizations and church volunteers who were having a program consultation about farmers and lumad issues at the Mother Francisca and Spirituality Center, Lagao, General Santos City on July 4, 2018.
Aldeem Yañez of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente-Diocese of Libertad, Jomorito Goaynon and Roger Plana of the indigenous organization Kalumbay, Ireneo Udarbe of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Vennel Chenfoo of Kabataan Partylist, Kristine Cabardo of the League of Filipino Students, Teresita Naul of Karapatan, and other human rights defenders were arrested by the Philippine National Police in General Santos and filed with the false charge of obstruction of justice. The police also preposterously arrested the seminar house’s security guard and staff on the same charge. Two other companions were forced to admit to be the persons stated in an unsigned warrant of arrest.
Yañez and his colleagues were conducting a consultation for the Iglesia Filipina Independiente Visayas-Mindanao Regional Office for Development (IFI-VIMROD) when they were arrested by state forces at about 8:00 in the evening. VIMROD is a reputed civil society organization providing socio-economic and developmental projects in poor areas in Southern Philippines for more than two decades now.
Barug Katungod Mindanao believes that the arrest and detention of leaders and members is part of the on-going ‘crackdown’ of the Duterte administration against progressive groups and religious institutions who are critical of the administration’s fascist and anti-poor economic policies.
In Northern Mindanao alone, 43 individuals were slapped with trumped-up charges. They belong to cause-oriented organizations in the region. While they now fear for their lives, they continue to push for genuine change and defend the human rights of farmers, indigenous peoples, and the Moro people amidst these threats. All over Mindanao, more than 700 victims of fake charges have been recorded.
From January to March this year, a total of 24 members and leaders of progressive organizations were victims of illegal arrest and detention all over the country. The trend shows there is a clear state policy directed at curtailing human rights and political dissent.
The ‘crackdown’ of the Duterte administration against persons and groups working in the legal and democratic arena is a sign of desperation. Rural communities in Mindanao are already suffering the brunt of Martial Law abuses. The arrest of these 13 human rights defenders seeks to prevent further exposes on crimes committed by the Duterte government and its state forces especially to the national and international community.
In these dark times wherein killing is a state policy, Barug Katungod Mindanao calls on the people to remain steadfast in the struggle against Duterte’s tyranny. We will continue to resist the Duterte administration’s ‘crackdown’ and Martial Law in Mindanao.
No matter how great the obstacle is, no matter how difficult the situation is, no matter how long the struggle will take, we must never forget what history taught us: Every dictator, whoever he is, will eventually fall in the hands of the people’s struggle.
Barug Katungod Mindanao