• Free Kim Gargar!

    Giovanni Tapang, Ph.D.

    Giovanni Tapang, Ph.D.

    Kim Gargar, a PhD student of Chronobiology from the University of Groningen, was illegally arrested last October 2 by elements of the 67th Infantry Battalion while doing fieldwork for a project in Typhoon Pablo devastated areas. He was caught in a crossfire between government soldiers and the New People’s Army (NPA) and remains in detention at the Mati Provincial Jail.

    According to Kim and his lawyer, he was found 1.5 kilometers away from the encounter site injured as he leapt to a gully when he heard shots while he was preparing to observe fireflies in the area. The presence of fireflies are indicators of nearby clean water spots and an unpolluted and healthy environment. Fireflies are highly sensitive to pollutants and chemicals and often inhabit areas such as marshes or wet wooded areas.

    Fireflies are also right in Kim’s own interest of chronobiology. It is the study of periodic phenomena in biological systems and their relation to external stimuli such as the sun, the moon or other signals. Fireflies, for example, use their lower abdomen as signals for mates or prey. The phase of their blinking is in turn influenced by the presence of other insects around them. This synchronization of fireflies is not only a good example of hoe physics and biology interact but is also a wonder to behold to see in actual reality.

    Kim graduated as magna cum laude with a degree in BS Physics and as Class Valedictorian of the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology. He became a volunteer physicist of AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People since 2001 when we met him as he started teaching and studying for a Masters degree in UP. Ever since we met him, he remained true to his humble origins from a poor family in Iligan. He often recounts how he struggled to be able to come to the city to study and teach in a premier school.

    He continued his passion for teaching aspiring physicists at the Mapua Institute of Technology and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. He later continued his studies as a doctorate student. He came back early this year and joined the Center for Environmental Concerns. When he personally witnessed the plight of his fellow Mindanaoenos when he was sent to join a humanitarian and fact finding mission last April 18-20, 2013, he wanted to return to Davao to help those who were affected by Typhoon Pablo.

    He lamented the inaction and lack of support for the devastated communities, five months after Typhoon Pablo and talked of the urgent need to rehabilitate the forests and the environment to reduce the risks of disasters and help the people regain their source of water and life. In his return to Manila, Gargar immediately requested to be temporarily seconded to Panalipdan, Southern Mindanao to be allowed to directly contribute to restoration efforts.

    The military claims that Kim joined the NPA in 2012. This is not true. While Kim is a very bright physicist, he has not invented teleportation yet as he was still doing his dissertation in Groningen last year and came home only in 2013. Kim is not and has never been a member of the New People’s Army. He planned to work in Davao only for a while and in fact planned to bring his family to his home province in Iligan this Christmas before returning to work in Manila.

    Kim’s involvement with AGHAM includes the promotion of the People’s Science School in urban poor communities and the coordination for the Science for the People Colloquium which is a venue for scientists to share their research outputs on appropriate technology. In the universities he worked, he institutionalized research groups inside science organizations with the aim of matching the subject of researches with the needs of marginalized communities.

    As an environmental advocate, he was part of environmental investigative missions on various issues such as the impacts of cassava monocrop plantation in Isabela and the flooding study of the Buwaya River in Cordillera. Recently, Kim was an active member of a citizens’ watchdog group that monitored the issue of the huge mine spill caused by the failure of the tailings impoundment of Philex Mines in Benguet.

    Kim was helping in the reforestation efforts to bring back the life of the forests of Cateel. Lives and livelihoods of hundreds of families in Cateel are dependent on the healthy functioning of this ecosystem, and Kim’s ongoing research is vital to the realization of the ongoing reforestation and rehabilitation process.

    All he wanted was to help the people of Mindanao to rise from the rubbles of environmental catastrophe. The military mindset that everyone they encounter in the mountains and forests are automatically tagged as NPAs is dangerous for scientists who do field research. We are reminded of the military’s callous murder of botanist Leonard Co as he was doing field research in Leyte three years ago.

    Kim’s illegal detention is a great offense and a criminal act not only to him but the people whom he is serving. We should all demand for his immediate release and the dismissal of the trumped-up charges filed against him.

    Kim Gargar was a frequent contributor in this column (Prometheus Bound) writing about brain drain, Einstein, chronobiology, mathematics, puzzles and society.


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    1. roselle leah k rivera on

      Please give us some leads about an online petition which we can sign to support Kim’s plight. I can help gather signatures from international students here in NL where he is a Phd student. I have been to Mati and met with leaders of citizen’s groups there. I feel it is inaccurate to label it “infested” as if it were some rathole when it is a truly beautiful place with active and involved communties.

      • roselle leah rivera on

        the link to the online petition above by Kim Gargar Online Support doesnt work. nor does the hyperlinks for information about dr. kim. it says ” server error.” is there another way? maybe the sight is being sabotaged by the military? knowing the young mentors of students like my daughter ( who was an applied physics freshie at diliman back then) is totally disturbing. makes me so mad. i really want to help with this online petition.

    2. Fernan Mendoza on

      Fail in citizen identity. Fail in made-up accusations. Fail in arrest. Can’t they at least Google the person’s name and see the search results? I’m referring to his linkedin account and others. Ano ba ang itinuturo natin sa mga sundalo? It’s obviously harrass now and verify later.

    3. Ricardo Atencia on

      Should there be charges, that should be done expeditiously, and if none, then please release him. If he was carrying a rifle, not just planted, then he has to face justice.

      I still wonder with such a person given that talent, why carry weapon, and if is part of the NPA, he could be more effective in advocacy rather than in the art of war.

      Dr. Jose Rizal was more effective with his pen, rather than join Gat Andres Bonifacio’s armed group (of course as our history said, he was against armed revolution).

      Being in the wrong place at the wrong time does not make one part of the NPA. There has to be collaborative evidences that will back up the claim that he was member of the NPA, and people would of course want to know what are those evidences.

      We could not call this illegal detention either, as the military said, they have evidence pointing to the professor’s involvement.

      Whatever that is, we should pressure the early disposition of his case, as we know that the justice system in our country is frustratingly slow.

      Could someone who has great influence intervene on behalf of the professor should there be lapses on the part of those who apprehended him. There could be an error, but who knows?

    4. Has sedition charges been filed against him? At the very least, this guy deserves his day in court.

      But Mati, Davao Oriental is one remote area and infested with NPAs.

      • The hinterlands of Davao Oriental suffered the most from environmental destruction and Typhoon Pablo impacts. That is precisely the reason why Kim is there. The Aquino govt has neglected our most climate-vulnerable communities — and now this is how they treat people’s scientists who pick up what govt has long abandoned?