Archives | Cordillera | Publications | International Work | Campaigns |Elders Work | Galleries | About Us | Home

May 12, 2008

back to top back to top


Statement from the Indigenous Peoples Rights Monitor on the Militarization in Tubo, Abra

"We were threatened by soldiers that our community will be transformed into another Marag Valley and Tabbak . They told us that all of us were members of the New People's Army. They showed us pictures of community destruction. They even told us that they were going to bring in soldiers who were trained by Palparan ."
- Pananuman resident

The State has again made its terrorism felt in the tri-boundary area of Abra, Ilocos Sur and Mt. Province.

On March 12, 2008, elements of the Bravo and Charlie Company of the 50th Infantry Battalion under the 503rd Infantry Brigade headed by Lt. Dalven Abdul Rashid Avila and Lt. June Pedregoza, militarized the communities. Upon their arrival, aerial bombings and mortar shellings were conducted around the community. Mortar cannons were stationed and launched from within the residential area of Pananuman, Tubtuba, Tubo, Abra. The community was hamletted for a month. People experienced varying degrees of harassments, threats, and intimidation. Their houses were illegally searched and their properties divested and destroyed. The church and dap-ay were desecrated. The military camped within the residential areas thereby endangering the lives of all civilians.

These are among the grave human rights violations that were documented during the fact finding mission on May 2-5, 2008.

The military operations conducted are under the Arroyo government's counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) II and are also intended to prepare the community for the entry of mining explorations.

Human Rights Violations

We condemn the grave disrespect of human rights in this community which almost pushed them to evacuate again from their own village.

From the first week of March to mid-April, the community lived in fear. They were not allowed to tend their swidden farms. They were not allowed to buy enough food supplies to adequately stock their remote village. They were labeled as members or leaders of the New Peoples Army (NPA) and NPA sympathizers, making them targets of military operations as laid down in the OBL. Two cows and other farm animals were butchered by the soldiers without permission. The homes of the civilians were illegally searched. Some houses were forcibly opened and some of the people's properties were taken. For five days (March 22 - 27), bombs were dropped in their communities destroying their forests and rice fields. When the aerial bombings stopped, mortar cannons, which were stored on the school grounds adjacent residential houses, were fired from the edges of the community for almost 24 hours straight, putting the life and security of people in great peril. Residents reportedly suffered from severe trauma. Even children were not spared from being harassed, threatened and intimidated.

The residents were also not allowed to search for Lakay Mariano Galisen, a sixty-year-old community member who insisted on tending his farm and went missing during the operations. The community leaders had to repeatedly plead with the government troops to be allowed to search for him. He was later found last April 1 near his farm already in a state of decomposition.

International Humanitarian Laws violations

On March 24, 2008, there was an encounter between the government troops and the NPA that resulted to casualties on both sides. Immediately after the encounter, Lt. Avila was heard bragging about cutting an NPA member into pieces. He threatened community leaders that he will do the same to them if they do not stop supporting the NPA or give them information about the communist group. One of the soldiers informed the community that they left one NPA dead in the mountains.

The indigenous peoples which inhabit the tri-boundary have a high regard and respect for the dead. The community people therefore asked Lt. Avila to allow them to retrieve the body of the slain NPA and give him a decent burial or bring him to his family, but Avila adamantly prevented them from doing so. Lt. Avila instead directed the community men to retrieve the body of a soldier who was killed in the same incident in the area where the NPA was also later found. The men were even ordered to clear an area in the community to serve as helipad during the military retrieval operations.

The residents were only able to locate the body of the NPA member and give it proper burial three weeks after the incident.

During the fact finding mission, the NPA member was exhumed, identified as 27-year old Sammy Rey Cayago and retrieved by his family.

The examination of Cayago's remains showed that the head was severed. The community people stated that they found the head completely separated from the body. Villagers who found the body noted that the head seemed to have been chopped off at the neck. The back of the skull was severely crushed and fragmented. They also found a big rock nearby with blood on it which they surmised to have been used to crush the victim's skull. The right foot and right arm were missing.

We strongly denounce the desecration of Cayago's remains and the AFP's refusal for the body to be retrieved and given a decent burial. These are blatant violations of the Protocols of War embodied in various Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Laws as well as in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (CARHIHL). We find this highly deplorable.

Not another Marag, Not another Tabbak

We join the communities in their petitions and resolutions strongly calling for:

1. A stop to militarization of the communities in the triboundary of Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur.
2. Government troops to respect human rights and international humanitarian laws;
3. Justice for the victims of human rights violations - Investigation and prosecution of
the human rights violations committed by the government troops under the leadership of Lt. Dalven Abdul Rashid Avila and Lt. June Pedregoza; and
4. a Stop to all forms of development aggression in the area especially the mining projects.

For decades, the communities in this area have been subjected to militarization that has violated their rights and disrupted their lives. We say no to another Marag, to another Tabbak. We demand a stop to Operation Plan Bantay Laya II.

We assert that the people's rights should be respected and that they be allowed to live in their village free from state terrorism.#

For reference:

Atty. Reynaldo Cortes
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance

Atty. Mary Ann Bayang
National Program Coordinator
Indigenous Peoples Rights Monito

Published with financial contribution from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation
Copyright © 2004 website content by Cordillera Peoples Alliance,
Website design by Borky Perida