MILITARY HARASS, INTERROGATE
BALITOK CHAIRPERSON; ACCUSE BALITOK AND FARMERS; GROUP AS NPA FRONT
For two hours on June 3, 2008, Baay
Licuan Takderan Omnu a Karbengan (BALITOK) Ernesto "Aggoy"
Quinto, was harassed and interrogated by elements of the 52nd Infantry
Battalion (IB), by a certain 2nd Lieutenant Santillan and Corporal
Codiares in Brgy. Lenneng, Baay Licuan, Abra. Lakay Aggoy, as his
known and called, is a respected elder-leader in his community of
Brgy. Lenneng. He is also the president of their local farmers association,
the Lenneng Kileng Tinguians Farmers Association (LEKITIFA).
Militarization has increased and intensified in
Baay Licuan, where the Binongan indigenous peoples are actively
and collectively fighting off Canadian mining company Olympus Pacific
Minerals, which has violated the said communities' right to Free,
Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) over their ancestral domain. Olympus
explored and drilled in Mt. Capcapo, which is part of the Binongan
ancestral domain without any prior information to the affected communities.
Sustained opposition pushed the National Commission on Indigenous
Peoples to issue a letter directing Olympus and its local partners
AMIC and Jabel to stop the drillings. Even the provincial NCIP affirmed
in its Field Based Investigation that indeed, Olympus has violated
the Binongan IPs' right to FPIC.
Presently, Olympus is still trying to continue its
drilling by complying with the procedural FPIC as required by Philippine
law. The communities, however, reiterated over and over that from
the start, they have not given any consent to Olympus' activities,
and that they are not even giving it now. It is at this time that
military deployment increased in the area, with 2 companies of the
503rd IB Recon Coy and the 502nd Composite Coy, which translates
into around 160-200 soldiers in four barangays (Poblacion, Lenneng,
The soldiers had been conducting surveillance in
the homes, in the guise of a population census, while taking videos
of the residents especially community leaders including staff from
the regional Cordillera Peoples Alliance and its Abra chapter, KASTAN.
They too have been maliciously tagged as members of the New People's
Army (NPA), and that their organizations are NPA fronts.
Invited to a "short talk"
It was reported to CPA that at exactly 7 AM on June 3, Corporal
Codiares approached Quinto and invited him to a "short talk"
with 2nd Lt. Santillan at the Barangay Hall, where 2nd Lt. Santillan
started asking Quinto questions about LEKITIFA, including names
of its officers and accused LEKITIFA of being an organization of
and a front of the (NPA). Quinto strongly denied this and instead
explained the legitimacy of their association, its members and officers.
Lt. Santillan and Crpl. Codiares, continued to interrogate
Quinto by asking him how frequent he left his community and where
he went whenever he left. They also directly accused him of being
a member of the NPA and that the reasons of his travels outside
their community were to attend meetings with the NPA.
Quinto challenged the two to show evidence that
he is an NPA and that LEKITIFA is an organization of the NPA, of
which the Santillan and Codiares were not able to prove. He also
challenged to the them to ask the people of Lenneng if he is a member
of the NPA. Codiares still insisted that Quinto is a supporter,
supplier and even a member of the NPA, and even tried to convince
him to accept their accusations and since they are willing to help
him. Santillan and Codiares also asked if the sources of LEKITIFA's
farm tools is supplied by the NPA.
Quinto answered that he has nothing to accept because
he and the LEKITIFA is a legitimate organization. In his frustration,
Codiares called Quinto a liar. The two also tried to ask questions
about the newly organized Baay Licuan Takderan Omnu a Karbengan
(BALITOK) of which Quinto is also the Chairperson. Quinto explained
that BALITOK is a legitimate organization that was recently organized
by the people of Baay Licuan as they confront the threats of Canadian
mining company Olympus Pacific Minerals. The interrogation ended
at around 9 AM. Mr. Ernesto Quinto had served a term as Councilor
of the Municipality of Baay Licuan. He is a respected personality
and his views are is strongly recognized by the people of his community.
In a separate incident on June 18 at around 10 AM,
4 elements of the Recon Coy approached Mr. Aguinaldo Purugganan,
BALITOK vice chairperson while on in his way home to Poblacion.
They asked him if he can come for a "short talk" with
the commanding officer of the Recon Coy, 2nd Lt. Allen Fuentes.
Fuentes accused Purugganan of accommodating members of the NPA in
his home, referring to the CPA and KASTAN staff. Hindi mo ba alam
na ang mga inaalagaan mo sa bahay mo ay mga NPA? (Do you not know
that those people you are inviting to your home are members of the
NPA?), Fuentes was quoted saying. Purruganan answered that he knew
CPA and KASTAN not as NPAs but as the ones helping them confront
threats of Olympus and large mining.
The Cordillera Peoples Alliance continues to call
for your support to the people of Baay Licuan, who face continuing
and intensifying threats to their individual and collective human
rights as they battle large-scale mining and fight for their inherent
collective rights. #