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Official statement of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance on the brutal shooting of paralegal volunteer Brandon Lee in Ifugao

August 7, 2019

We condemn the shooting incident this August 6 in Lagawe, Ifugao that seriously injured Cordillera Human Rights Alliance’s paralegal volunteer and provincial human rights officer in Ifugao, Brandon Lee, and the simultaneous issuances of threats, and surveillance of other officers of the Ifugao Peasant Movement including Nestor Peralta and James Tayaban.

Brandon, a human rights worker and a volunteer staff for the Ifugao Peasant Movement and the Justice and Peace Advocates of Ifugao, was shot and wounded by unidentified men whom we believe are State security forces or agents. The incident happened close to 6 pm at Lee’s residence in Lagawe, Ifugao. Prior to this, Brandon has been consistently subjected to different threats and harassment, even in social media, by the 54th IBPA for his involvement with the IPM and his human rights work.

He was rushed to the hospital and is now being given appropriate medical assistance.

Brandon, a US citizen is married to Bernice Bunolna of Ifugao and is a doting father to Jesse, their daughter. He is a permanent resident here in the Philippines.

Last July 29, the 54th IBPA officers headed by a certain 1Lt Karol Jay R. Mendoza, 54th IBPA CMO officer, and LTC Narciso Nabulneg, Jr. went to the IPM office after they sent letters seeking partnership with the peasant organization. They were insisting to get information about IPM activities and even names of members in communities. In his report to the CHRA about the harassment and intimidation, Brandon told them, “I will just give you two names you can tell your boss on why we are reluctant to partner with you, William Bugatti, and Ricardo Mayumi and your boss should understand why. Tell them, if you want a better relationship with the farmer organizations, you shouldn’t threaten them.”

In 2015, the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance with other human rights organizations submitted a position paper to the United States Congress’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in Washington, D.C. One of the cases cited was the death threats Brandon Lee received as a human rights worker in Ifugao. That year, Brandon and other IPM leaders and members were sent a photo of an Ifugao burial blanket with messages that they will face the same fate as human rights worker, William Bugatti who was extrajudicially killed in March 2014.

Brandon saw the need for human rights work in the Philippines despite its dangers. He volunteered as a paralegal in Ifugao after William was killed. He devoted his time and skills for the work knowing its value to the indigenous peoples of Ifugao who have treated him as their own.

We urgently ask for support to hold the State accountable for the series of violations in Ifugao. Much of the recent incidents are along the implementation of the Executive Order 70 signed by President Duterte in 2018 “Institutionalizing the Whole of Nation Approach in Attaining Inclusive and Sustainable Peace, Creating a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict ( NTF ELCAC) and Directing the Adoption of a National Peace Framework”. The Executive Order 70 is part of the Oplan Kapayapaan and Oplan Kapanatagan implementation that seeks to silence legitimate and legal dissent, disallowing the existence of a genuine democratic space in our society.

We hold accountable the State security forces that the Duterte administration has let loose in the Cordillera region – the 54th IBPA, the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and the Northern Luzon Command.

We urgently call on the people to voice out your concern and call for justice for Brandon and other human rights violations victims. The attacks on human rights defenders must end.


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