Prof. Kim Gargar: “I was doing research”

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MATI CITY, Davao Oriental (MindaNews / 05 October) – Physicist and former professor Kim Ajeas Gargar is spending his 34th birthday on Sunday (Oct. 6), behind bars.

Gargar,  found with a head and foot injury hours after a  2 a.m. clash between government forces and the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) in Sitio Spur Dos, Barangay Aliwagwag in Cateel,  Davao Oriental on October 1,  is facing four criminal charges : violation of RA 9615 or illegal possession of explosives, firearms and ammunitions; two counts of  multiple frustrated/attempted murder; and violation of the election gun ban.

“Hindi totoo lahat yan” (These are not true),  Gargar, Local and International Networking Officer of the Quezon City-based Center for Environmental Concerns –Philippines (CEC-Phils) and a PhD candidate in Chronobiology from the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in the Netherlands, told MindaNews Friday afternoon while awaiting the taking of his fingerprints and mug shots at the Mati City Police Station.

Gargar, who hails from Iligan City, finished BS in Physics, magna cum laude, at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology in 2000 in his hometown, Iligan City; and his MS in Physics at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

Prof. Kim Gargar at the Mati City Police station late Friday aftenroon, Oct 4. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano
Prof. Kim Gargar at the Mati City Police station late Friday aftenroon, Oct 4. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Gargar was transferred from the Davao Oriental Provincial Hospital to the Davao Oriental Provincial Jail in Barangay Sainz late Friday afternoon, becoming the 213th inmate there.

He is scheduled for arraignment on October 24.

Col. Benjamin Madrigal, chief of the 701st Infantry Brigade, told MindaNews in a telephone interview Wednesday night that Gargar was “intercepted” by soldiers near the site of a clash with the NPA and was turned over to the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG). He said he was immediately given first aid treatment.

Madrigal narrated that troops from the 67th IB were deployed to Spur Dos following intelligence reports that the NPA would set off landmines in the area. He said a landmine exploded at around 2 a.m. October 1, injuring five soldiers, followed by a 30-minute clash.  Recovered from the encounter site was the body of a slain NPA member later identified as Gerald Tagal Antepuesto and four IEDs (improvised explosive device).

“Not from me”

A press release issued by the Public Information Office of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) on October 3 said Gargar was “captured by the troops who were pursuing the rebels after a firefight in Aliwagwag.”

Quoting from documents submitted to the court, Police Inspector Carmelo Teneros, public information officer of the Provincial Police, told MindaNews that the following items were confiscated from Gargar: “assorted IEDs, wires, assorted ammos, one unit M-16 rifle without magazine, eight pieces blasting cap, assorted personal belongings, medical kit, one unit handheld radio, one unit transistorized radio.”

“Wala sa akin lahat yung mga ebidensya na hinarap sa fiscal” (All the evidences presented to the prosecutor were not from me), Gargar said.

Unarmed, conscious

The Eastmincom press release also said that Gargar was “found unconscious while clutching a rifle 200 meters away from the encounter site.”

“An M16 rifle, landmines and subversive documents were recovered,” it added.

Gargar said he was unarmed and conscious when a K-9 dog brought by the soldiers during the pursuit operations, found him on the side of a river near a small waterfalls.

He recalls having followed the river away from the firing when “nahulog ako doon sa  pagmamadali at kaba, kaya ako nagkaroon nito” (in my haste and out of fear, I fell that’s why I got these), he said, pointing to the bandage on his head and his right foot in plaster cast.

Prof. Kim Gargar approaching the gat of the Provincial Jaili in Mati City, Davao Oriental on Friday afternoon, Oct. 4. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano
Prof. Kim Gargar approaching the gat of the Provincial Jaili in Mati City, Davao Oriental on Friday afternoon, Oct. 4. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Gargar said he fell into that spot at around 4:30 a.m., and waited for someone to pass by.  He said he had expected the local resident who ran along with him when the firing started, would return for him.

For nine hours — from the time he fell to the time he was found at 1:30 p.m. —  Gargar said he dried his clothes, used up the two canned sardines in his bag for breakfast and lunch and tried to fight off sleep. “Kinatatakutan ko baka di na ako magising” (I was afraid I would not wake up anymore).

Although the bleeding was not profuse,  he wanted the head wound attended to immediately.

Gargar said  that when the soldiers came, he shouted wala koy pusil” (I have no firearm) but shifted to Filipino when he heard a number of them speak the language. “Wala akong baril”

Six-month research

Gargar  was among  69 members of a fact-finding team in mid-April 2013 that documented  the March 4 killing of  a Baganga village councilor and the state of the environment in the typhoon-hit areas in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Both provinces were the hardest hit when super typhoon Pablo struck on December 4, 2012.

Gargar  told MindaNews he returned to Compostela Valley in late June for a six-month resource mapping for the rehabilitation of the devastated areas, “mainly for rainforestation program,” in coordination with  Balsa Mindanao and the environmental group, Panalipdan.

He said it would be the locals who would manage the program.

The physicist chose the forests of Panansalan in Compostela town, Compostela Valley province for his area of study, supposedly until December.

Gargar said he had a camera with an 8GB memory card which, he said, is still with the 67th Infantry Battalion, the unit that clashed with the NPA and found him early afternoon Tuesday.  He said he was told it will be returned to him.

“Nagkawatak-watak”

Gargar said he took down notes on loose pages, bringing only several pieces of paper for his data gathering.  Some of his notes are gone, he lamented.  “Nagkawatak-watak” (Scattered).  The first thing he asked the human rights group, Karapatan, was to give him a pen and a notebook so he could try to reconstruct his notes.

Gargar said he arrived in the Aliwagwag area which is in the boundary with Compostela, on September 28, studying the area for tributaries and other water resources.

He noted this would be a good area for the rainforestation since it is near the highway and “marami pang ibang factors andon sa notes ko.”

On the day of the encounter between government forces and the NPA, Gargar said “magko-conduct sana kami nung nocturnal activity assessment, yung mga animals na may nocturnal activities, yung sounds na  maririnig mo or ma-o-observe mo like  fireflies. You can’t see fireflies at daytime.”

On the military’s allegations that he is an NPA guerrilla and that he participated in the October 1 ambush and clash, Gargar said,  “yun yung parang conclusion nila” (That seems to be their conclusion).

He said he is also aware of a military video footage of him talking about the ambush. In that video, Gargar said, among others, that he was not part of the planning and  that he fired only one bullet.

Gargar explained that “lahat ng sinabi ko, ginawa ko mula nung dinakip nila ako is to please them kasi  I don’t want to antagonize  so kung ano yung gusto nilang marinig sa tingin ko, yun yung aking sasabihin.”

“Kung meron akong mga nasabi doon ano yun, dahil sa psychology ko at that time, psychology ng tao na may kaharap na 10 or more long firearms ng  government forces,” he told MindaNews.

Gargar said he was brought to a military camp in Barangay Aliwagwag and later transfered to the Cateel hospital at around 8 p.m. where his injuries were attended to. He had five stitches for his head wound.

Gargar stayed the night at the police station in Cateel and by noon of October 2, was brought to Mati City by the CIDG.  He spent two nights in the hospital before he was transferred to the provincial jail late Friday afternoon.

According to his Linkedin account, Gargar has taught Physics, among other courses, in four universities: University of the Philippines as Teaching Associate from June 2000 to May 2003; Mindanao Polytechnic State College (now Mindanao University of Science and Technology) in Cagayan de Oro City from 2003 to 2004 and head of the Department of Physics from 2004 to 2005; Polytechnic University of the Philippines from 2005 to 2006 and the Mapua Institute of Technology from 2007 to 2008, where he also served as Research Director for Computational Sciences.

He started his PhD in 2009 and did research on “Analyzing a mathematical model of the mammalian circadian pacemaker.”   (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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