The government is determined to pursue the criminal charges slapped on 69 leaders of left-leaning organizations before the prosecution office of Cagayan Valley since there is sufficient basis to prove that they kidnapped and killed two soldiers and one paramilitary group member in the province a few months ago.
Twenty of those charged were also accused of the same offense in August in connection with their support to the fight of Lumads in their ancestral domain in Mindanao.
Some of those charged with three counts of kidnapping with homicide are: IsabeloAdviento, chairperson of Kagimungan peasant organization and Anakpawis party-list nominee; FemieGalapon, chairperson of the National Union of Students in the Philippine-Cagayan Valley and convenor of Rise4Education; Agnes Mesina, regional coordinator of Save the Valley and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines; Randy Malayao, convenor of Bayan Cagayan Valley and Makabayan vice president for Luzon; and Romella Liquigan, regional coordinator of Karapatan-Cagayan Valley and Gabriela Women’s party-list.
Karapatan Chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez, viewed the criminal charges as another form of harassment against anti-Aquino regime activists.
“The regime has done it again in an attempt to silence opposition and prevent them from amplifying the people’s demand for justice amid intensifying human rights violations in the region,” Hilao-Enriquez said in a press statement.
Hilao-Enriquez stressed that the filing of criminal charges were “the same tyrannical act the BS Aquino regime used in Mindanao, among the leaders in Davao City and General Santos City—filing trumped-up criminal charges against those who work with the victims of rights violations. Now, they want to suppress the voices of those in Cagayan Valley against the rising cases of military abuses in the region.”
The Manila Times learned that the complaints were brought to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutors in Tuguegarao City by relatives of two members of the 17th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (17th IB) and a member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit.
The complainants asserted that the three victims were abducted and killed by armed men belonging to the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed unit of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that has been carrying out an armed struggle since 1968 to put up a government to be headed by the elite leaders of the communist organization.
Hilao-Enriquez strongly argued that the filing of what she described as “trumped-up criminal charges” was the same practice done during the term of then Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo embedded in Oplan Bantay Laya.
The Inter-agency Legal Action Group or IALAG was tasked to implement Oplan Bantay Laya. President Benigno Aquino 3rd abolished Oplan Bantay Laya and replaced it with Oplan Bayanihan.
Hilao-Enriquez said Karapatan’s investigation showed the Aquino government is also using the same legal basis that was used by the Arroyo administration under Oplan Bantay Laya.
She said the government through the military files criminal charges against leaders of people’s organizations and civil society groups who defend and fight for the interests and protection of the Aggay, Malaweg, and Kalinga tribes.
The members of the 17th IB under the 5th Infantry Division have been conducting military operations in the area since February 2015, that allegedly resulted to massive abuses and human rights violations such as extra judicial killings, torture, abduction and illegal detention, illegal searches, encampment in barangay halls, health centers and houses of the residents, mostly belonging to the Aggay, Malaweg, and Kalinga tribes, she said.
Hilao-Enriquez said the Aggay, Malaweg, and Kalinga are the most affected in the military operations.