DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 October) – The President of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands has written President Benigno S. Aquino III expressing the concern of the university’s board on the arrest of PhD candidate Kim Gargar for alleged “various illegal activities.”
“To us, Kim appeared to be a very peaceful person. We find it impossible to imagine him with a gun, fighting against others,” Prof. dr. S. Poppema, President of Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (University of Groningen) said in a letter dated October 22, two days before Gargar’s arraignment in Baganga, Davao Oriental.
Gargar, whom his supervisor in the University described as an “excellent scientist,” pleaded “not guilty” to the charges filed against him.
The 34-year old physicist who has taught in four universities — University of the Philippines in Diliman, Mindanao Polytechnic State College (now Mindanao University of Science and Technology) in Cagayan de Oro City, Polytechnic University of the Philippines and the Mapua Institute of Technology until he went for his doctoral studies in the Netherlands — was 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.
He was charged with 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, told MindaNews on October 4, while awaiting the taking of his fingerprints and mug shots at the Mati City Police Station in Davao Oriental.
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.
Poppema said Gargar worked on his PhD from January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2012 and did so “in a very conscientious way.”
“He constructed computer models of the biological clock and helped the Department of Chronobiology to develop a better knowledge of how this system in the brain works,” Poppema said, adding that when Gargar left the university, his thesis was not yet finished but he had an agreement with his supervisor, Prof. Domien GM Beersma “that he would complete the manuscript in the next few months.”
“It is expected that the results of his thesis work can be applied to improve conditions for shift workers, for instance,” Poppema said.
Poppema noted that Gargar “was not only involved in his own studies, he also participated in various other academic activities. He gave lectures about his work to other students, participated in scientific discussions with other members of the Research School on Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences, and extended the network of scientists engaged in research on the biological clock to include mathematicians. We never noticed any illegal activities.”
“We are very concerned with Kim Gargar’s situation and ask the Philippine Government to pay attention to his case,” Poppema said.
Gargar’s study was “Analyzing a mathematical model of the mammalian circadian pacemaker.”
In an October 16 e-mail to Gargar’s lawyer, Joel Mahinay, Beersma, Director of the Centre for Behaviour and Neurosciences at the University of Groningen, Department of Chronobiology, described Gargar as an “excellent scientist.”
“The thesis that he is working on is not yet completely finished, but he and I had agreed to finish it in the upcoming period. The studies concerned computer models of the biological clock. They really contribute to our understanding of how the clock works, which may eventually have implications for shift work conditions for instance,” Beersma wrote.
He said Gargar is a “very hard working scientist, spending much of his time to reading literature and discussing the work with other scientists. To me he is a classical example of a teacher. It is virtually impossible for me to imagine him with a gun shooting people.”
Chronobiology, according to the website of the Center for Chronobiology in the University of California in San Diego is “the biology of time, or the study of internal biological clocks.”
“Biological clocks are found at all levels in living organisms. They range from oscillations found in nerve cells on the millisecond scale to oscillations in minutes, hours, days, and years in a variety of organisms and tissues. Although the commonly used phrase ‘your biological clock is ticking’ relates to the window of years for becoming parents, many clocks are found in humans, such as the time to puberty, to menopause, and aging ‘clocks.’ Our research unit is focused on just one of these chronobiological phenomena: the daily or circadian clock.”
The Center added: “The name circadian comes from the Latin circa, meaning ‘approximately,’ and diem or dies, ‘day;’ thus, the word means ‘about one day.’ Examples of human health issues related to circadian rhythms—biological oscillations in activity that recur with a period of ‘about one day’—are the problems associated with jet lag and shift work, the depression of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and time-of-day differences in response to medications and treatments.”
Col. Benjamin Madrigal, chief of the 701st Infantry Brigade, told MindaNews in a telephone interview on October 1 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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bail, transfer of venue
Gargar through his lawyer, has filed a petition for bail, arguing that the alleged evidences of the military against him are not strong. One of the charges filed against him is illegal possession of explosives – a non-bailable offense.
Hearing for the bail is set for November 26 to 28 in Baganga.
Gargar’s case is being tried in Baganga town, where the cases were filed. He was arraigned on October 24 before Judge Emilio Dayanghirang III, presiding judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 32 in Lupon, Davao Oriental and concurrent acting judge of the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 in Baganga town.
Branch 7 in Baganga has a newly-appointed presiding judge, Jocam Joseph Jocson, the former provincial prosecutor. Jocson has not assumed his post but when he does, he cannot hear Gargar’s case because he was the prosecutor who resolved for the filing of cases in court against the physicist.
Mahinay told MindaNews he informed Dayanghirang on October 24 that they will file a petition with the Supreme Court to transfer the venue of the hearing to Lupon.
Gargar is presently detained at the Provincial Jail in Mati City. Lupon is 50 kilometers and an hour’s travel by land from Mati while Baganga is 140 kilometers and 2.5 hours away from Mati. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)