COTABATO CITY: A foreign fact finding team, the International Solidarity Mission, investigating the alleged massacre of indigenous peoples in Lake Sebu town accused the police of harassment after they were briefly held for questioning here on Thursday.
Arlene Alonzo, member of the team composed of two foreigners and three Filipino-Americans, said they were harassed and treated like law breakers.
“We just came over to investigate the alleged massacre but here we are being detained,” Alonzo said.
With Alonzo were Adam Shaw, an American missionary; Zimbabwe Missionary Tawanda Chandingwana; Fil-Ams and Gabriela New York members Julie Jamora, Dinah Anderson and Jamy Drapeza.
Alonzo said they just completed their fact-finding mission on the alleged killing of eight T’boli-Manobo farmers by state forces on December 3, 2017 in Sitio Datal Bonglangon at Barangay Ned of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.
“We were on our way to Gen. Santos City from Koronadal Thursday morning when a team of police officers flagged down our vehicle and held us for almost an hour,” Alonzo recalled. No search warrants were presented.
She said the police officers also threatened them of deportation for resisting. “We did not resist, we voluntarily presented our passports,” she said.
Alonzo added that from Lake Sebu to Koronadal City on Wednesday, they were flagged down in at least three police checkpoints.
“Very obvious we were singled out while they allow other vehicles to pass through,” she said.
Earlier, South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Fuentes asked the police to check on some individuals claiming to be journalists but could not present identification cards.
She said she received information that some foreigners were planning to stage protest actions in Koronadal City along with indigenous peoples hauled from other areas.
Meanwhile, Senior Supt. Nestor Salcedo, South Cotabato police director, denied that the group was detained or harassed.
“We simply check on the travel papers of the foreigners who surprisingly came over without coordination with the police,” Salcedo said.
“Checking of their travel papers is part of the process since Mindanao is under martial law,” Salcedo said, adding that during the three occasions they were flagged down at police checkpoints they failed to present passports and immigration Ids.
It was only on Thursday morning at a police checkpoint at the borders of Koronadal City and Tupi, South Cotabato that they presented their passports and travel papers, Salcedo said.