Lumad advocates in hit list

LAWMAKERS and human rights advocates have asked the Supreme Court to issue a writ of amparo after they learned that they have supposedly been included in a “hit list” after they helped tribesmen, called lumad, in Mindanao who complained of military harassment.

The military immediately denied the existence of  a hit list and said the lawmakers and rights advocates only fabricated the story to vilify the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“We categorically deny that,” said military spokesman Col. Resituto Padilla. “There is no truth to that news. There is a clear attempt to paint the AFP as killers and pursue continuing attempts to demonize the AFP.”

Tribal power. Manobo tribesmen hold up posters condemning the killing of indigenous people, called lumad, in Mindanao the military’s attempt to cover up its accountability for abuses in Lianga, Surigao del Sur during a news forum in Quezon City.  LINO SANTOS

But in a 36-page petition for writ of amparo and habeas data, the lawmakers and rights advocates, through the National Union of People’s Lawyers, complained to the SC that they are being subjected to surveillance, red-tagging and various forms of harassments.

“Petitioners have suffered from surveillance, red-tagging and various forms of harassment through the years and are now being implicated in trumped-up charges involving the hundreds of lumad who fled their homes in Talaingod, Davao del Norte to escape atrocities of the military and paramilitary forces occupying their communities,” the petitioners stressed.

Among the petitioners include Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus, former Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano, former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, Children’s Rehabilitation Center executive director Jacqueline Ruiz, Rural Missionaries Coordinator Sr. Mary Francis Añover, Rev. Irma Balaba of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, and Ofelia Beltran-Balleta, representing the family of former Anakpawis Rep. Beltran who passed away in 2008.

The petitioners claimed that the hit list was appended to a criminal complaint the AFP and Philippine National Police filed against some of their colleagues after they helped lumad communities in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon.

“This is an indication that the [Criminal Investigation and Detection Group] was provided with dossiers of the Petitioners and the other individuals included in the lists. Obviously, such dossiers came from other sources, since the individuals whose names appear in the lists, including the petitioners, are not fugitives from justice, and that the conduct of counter-insurgency operations is not a function of the CIDG,” the petitioners lamented.

Because of this, the petitioners appealed to SC justices to issue writs of amparo and habeas data.

Habeas Data will not only compel military and government agents to release information about the enforced disappearances but require access to military and police files. The writ of amparo, on the other hand bars the military officers in judicial proceedings to issue denial answers regarding petitions on disappearances or extrajudicial executions, which were legally permitted in habeas corpus proceedings.

They also urged the high tribunal to compel the military and the police to release the information they have gathered against them and destroy it.

 “Petitioners are not compelled merely by normal apprehension in decrying and seeking the Court’s protection from the threats to their lives, liberty and security which are the subject of this Petition. These threats must be viewed in light of injustice that the leaders and members of petitioners’ organizations have suffered under the State’s dark conspiracy of treating unarmed civiliancs as fair targets of counterinsurgency operations,” the petition stated.

Named respondents in the petition are President Benigno Aquino III, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, PNP chief Director Ricardo Marquez, other AFP officials such as Army chief Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año and Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad and CIDG director Chief Supt. Victor Deona, among others. 

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