In this village with no cellsite, mobile phone video helps bring justice to farmer

BARANGAY DEMOLOC, Malita Davao Occidental (MindaNews / 21 March) — In this village where there is no cellular phone signal, a mobile phone video on an act of torture has gone viral and triggered investigations by the Commission on Human Rights, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and the Philippine Army.

The 105-second video clip showed Tagakolu farmer Orlando “Kaido” Engo, his 15-year old son and 14-year old grandnephew sitting on the steps of the base of the Special Cafgu Active Auxiliary (SCAA), being bathed with iced water, in full view of the public.

The video, posted afternoon of March 9 by Malita Tagakolu Mission (MaTaMis) head Father Joey Gánio Evangelista of the Missionaries of Jesus, came from a resident who was able to document what was happening outside an Army detachment, not far from the barangay hall and a stone’s throw from the barangay captain’s house.

The video clip, which accompanied Evangelista’s narrative, has generated 20,127 views and 399 shares as of 11 a.m. March 21.

MaTaMis volunteer Marites Gonzalo, herself a member of the Tagakolu tribe and a resident of adjacent Barangay Pinalpalan observed that mobile phones began appearing in Demoloc and adjacent barangays as early as 2002.

“Most of these phones were brought by residents who have worked in nearby cities like Digos. I grew up listening to transistor radios like Avegon and Falcon but in 2008 or 2009, less people were using transistor radios in favor of mobile phones with music player capabilities,” Gonzalo recalls.

“It is a common sight in Demoloc to see people riding their horses or tending their farm with their mobile phones nearby, playing their favorite songs,” adds Gonzalo.

 Romie Jemino prepares his playlist before tending his garden in Sitio Matamis, Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano Romie Jemino prepares his playlist before tending his garden in Sitio Matamis, Barangay Demoloc, Malita, Davao Occidental. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

While tending to his garden, 28-year old Romie Jemino listens to Air Supply songs from his three-year old Nokia phone that he bought for 3,000 pesos. He gets his files of music and videos from classmates through bluetooth.

“Sometimes I get my files from shops that transfer audio and video files for free,” Jimeno said.

In Barangay Demoloc proper, at least two shops offer file transfer for as low as 10 pesos. Because there is no cellsite here, stores don’t sell mobile phone “load.”

A shopper checks mobile phones at a shop in Malita poblacion in this photo taken on March 19,2016. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano A shopper checks mobile phones at a shop in Malita poblacion in this photo taken on March 19,2016. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Jemino tries to recall how many times he has used the text and call function of his phone. Only a few times, he says.

“Ang dili lang nako makalimtan kay katong higayon nga gikatkat nako nang bungtura, para mag tawag sa akuang igsuon sa Davao kay nagsakit amuang mama” (What I cannot forget is when I climbed that hill to call my sibling in Digos that our mother was sick), Jemino adds, pointing to a hilltop.

It took him 45 minutes to climb the hill for the signal he needed to make a call.

Tool for Social Change

Seventeen year old Luigi Lominggo of Barangay Pangaleon, owner of a Disco mobile phone admits he is amazed at how this small gadget can make a difference.

“Dili lang man diay ni pang music ug selfie,pwede pud diay magamit para ipakita kung unsa ang sayop sa atuang palibot” (So it’s not just for music or selfie but also to show what’s wrong in our surroundings), he notes.

Father Evangelista acknowledges the role of the mobile phone video in the quick response of different agencies. The Army has relieved an Army corporal, three members of the SCAA and a member of the CAA before midnight of March 9, hours after the priest posted his narrative and the video clip.

“It only shows that we are not that isolated after all, despite the lack of mobile phone signals and internet connection. We might experience difficulties in sending and receiving information from the outside world but we know that the rest of the world is watching,” said Evangelista.

As different agencies conduct their investigations on the reported torture case, Gonzalo hopes that more people will get to appreciate this little piece of technology that, if used properly, has the power to bring about social justice (Toto Lozano / MindaNews)