Court orders arrest of 15 human rights defenders who helped Lumad ‘bakwits’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 June) – The Regional Trial Court branch 10 here issued a warrant of arrest against 15 human rights defenders accused of kidnapping and serious illegal detention of some 700 Lumads at the Haran Evacuation Center in this city.

In her order issued last May 13, RTC 10 Judge Retrina E. Fuentes found the probable cause to order the arrest of the accused with no bail recommended.

The accused included Rev. Jurie Jaime, Bayan Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) secretary general Sheena Duazo, Karapatan SMR secretary general Hanimay Suazo, Ryan Laniba, Tony Salubre, Jimboy Maciano, Gabriela Davao secretary general Mary Ann Sapar, Jaja Encosio, Pedro Arnado, Pasaka SMR chairperson Kerlan Fanagel, Sr. Stella Matutina, Sr. Restita Miles, Isidro Andao, Kharlo Manano, and Save Our Schools (SOS) Network spokespern Rius Valle.

National Democratic Front of the Philippines spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili told reporters at the second day of “Hugpong sa Kalinaw” at the Davao City Recreation Center (Almendras Gym) that the court decision is “ridiculous.”

“Kung sino man ang judge nyan, he must be from another planet. Nagpunta dun si Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte to ask yung tao kung pine-prevent ba silang lumabas, walang lumabas, voluntary and pagpunta ng mga refugees. Bakit ngayon mag-issue sila ng warrant of arrest (Whoever is the judge, he must be from another planet. Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte went there to ask if they are being prevented from leaving, then nobody left. So, the refugees voluntarily went there. And now they issued the warrant of arrest?),” he said.

Valle alleged that it was a clear sabotage of the outgoing Aquino administration to derail the on-going peace negotiation between the NDF and the incoming Duterte administration.

He said the Aquino administration is apparently exhausting all means “to continue the atrocities and harassments” against leaders who are defending the Lumads. “It shows he is guilty of harassing the Lumads, the reason why he would like to cover himself up by accusing us of trumped up charges,” Valle said.

Lumads from Talaingod and Kapalong in Davao del Norte and San Fernando, Bukidnon have been staying for one year and one month at the Haran Evacuation Center, a facility run by the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP).

“The cases filed against the 15 leaders and church workers are based on falsified information that the 700 Lumad evacuees were forcibly held in captive by those accused,” Karapatan said in an emailed statement.

Karapatan noted that the case filed May last year by seven Matigsalog datu “in connivance with the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command” was dismissed by the Davao City prosecutor Nestor Ledesma who penned that “kidnapping ‘en masse’ at the heart of the city and confinement in a church compound is to say not plausible.”

Palabay wondered why Judge Fuentes “suddenly came out with an arrest warrant.”