DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 August) – Leaders of progressive groups, including a Bishop and a medical doctor whose names and photographs are among those featured in a poster branding them as “wanted,” ”human rights violators,” “berdugo at pumapatay ng tribu” (executioner and tribe killers), went to the San Pedro and Sta. Ana police stations here on Monday to report the matter and to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to file a “supplemental complaint” to a similar complaint filed on July 27 over yet another “vilification poster.”
Jay Apiag, Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region Secretary-General, in his letter-complaint addressed to CHR chair Jose Luis “Chito” Gascon and coursed through CHR Regional Director Edmundo Albay, said they find it “extremely alarming” as the new poster came “just less than a month since the Anti-Terror Act came into being.”
Accompanied by five of the nine named in the poster, Apiag said the series of harassments is “gradually creating a detrimental atmosphere for the human rights defenders, development workers and cause-oriented groups.”
A copy of the blotters from the San Pedro Police and Santa Ana police stations and photographs of the posters were attached to the complaint.
The colored posters, some of them printed on newsprint, the others glossy, show the word “Wanted” above photographs of the nine and their representations and under these, “Human Rights Violators,” “Berdugo at Pumapatay ng Tribu,” were posted outside Sta. Ana Shrine Parish at Sta. Ana Avenue and along Cabaguio Avenue, Dumanlas Road, and JP Laurel Avenue on Thursday morning, August 13.
On the same day, August 13, news from Malaysia jolted the police and military here when The Star newspaper reported that a terrorist “wanted” by both Philippine and Malaysian governments, was “spotted” with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chair Nur Misuari in Davao City, hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The city police chief led a team that went to the residence of Misuari and negotiated for two hours – from 6 to 8 p.m. – to serve the 34 pending warrants of arrest for murder, frustrated murder and kidnapping on Abduljihad “Edang” Susukan, who flew into the city from Jolo, Sulu with Misuari on Sunday morning, August 9 aboard a private jet usually used by President Rodrigo Duterte in his domestic travels and travels to neighboring ASEAN countries.
The August 13 “vilification posters” again bore the names and photographs of Apiag, Carlo Olalo of Kilusang Mayo Uno-Southern Mindanao Region (KMU-SMR), Jong Monzon, Secretary-General of PASAKA; and Tony Salubre of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-SMR (KMP-SMR) – who were among nine featured in a poster last month for being “wanted” allegedly for being “terrorist recruiter” (sic).
The four “terrorist recruiter(s)” are now “wanted” also as alleged “human rights violators” along with five others: Bishop Hamuel Tequis of United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) who was identified in the poster as “CPP member” (CPP stands for Communist Party of the Philippines); anaesthesiologist Jean Lindo, environmental activist and Gabriela-SMR chair; Meggie Nolasco, Executive Director of Salugpongan Te Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Inc. (identified in the poster as “STTICLI -Haran), Kharlo Manao, former Secretary-General of the children’s rights groups Salinlahi based in Manila, and Mariles Rafiola of KMP-SMR. Olalo of KMU is identified in the July 22 and August 13 posters as representing Bayan-SMR.
On July 27, Karapatan-SMR went to the CHR regional office to complain about a “wanted” poster with nine names and photographs pasted on walls or posts of establishments along Maa, Matina Crossing, Cabaguio, Buhangin, and Panacan on July 22, declaring them as “Terrorist Recruiter” (sic).
The July 22 posters included Apiag, Olalo, Monzon and Salubre; and Romelito Pablo, and Pj Dizon of KMU-SMR; Cora Espinoza, Gabriela-SMR vice chair and former commissioner of the Philippine Commission on Women; Mary Ann Sapar of Gabriela- SMR; and Pilar Barredo, Union Secretary of Alliance of Concerned Teachers Davao Region.
The July and August posters did not indicate who had these personalities declared “wanted.”
Not one among the 14 persons in the two posters has a pending warrant of arrest, Apiag said. Nolasco has a pending case for alleged child abuse in connection with the alleged detention of Lumad children in Talingod, Davao del Norte in November 2018.
In a statement on August 14, Apiag said the “wave of attacks indicates the state’s full-scale execution of Duterte’s own draconian act – a pompous show of unbridled power used against his critics that the state is afraid of to engage in discourse and governance.”
Apiag said he believes the police and military were behind the posters, noting that several Facebook and Twitter accounts managed by state forces “habitually post and share such harmful, baseless, malicious attacks on progressive organizations and its leaders and even on journalists and Lumad as ‘terrorists’ or ‘terrorist sympathizers.’”
“We can only point squarely to the rabid mercenaries in the state, who have glaring records of attacking activists and rights defenders with lies,” he said.
Major Alex Mindalano, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said Karpatan should prove their allegations in court.
“It has always been Karapatan’s old narrative, especially in social media, to accuse the military,” he said, adding that the people “are already aware of Karapatan’s characer and all its allied organizations. Again, we have nothing to do about it. Let Karapatan group prove their allegations in court,” Mindalano told MindaNews on Tuesday.
MindaNews also sought the comment of the police but Capt. Rose Aguilar, spokesperson of the Davao City Police Office, has yet to send her reply.
Apiag said Karapatan and its personnel have been the subject of malicious and harmful accusations for being vocal against the abuses of the rights of the marginalized and the majority of the Filipinos.
“We and the groups that are tagged in these vilification posters denounce this attack on democratic rights. We are fully aware of the gravity of such attacks and its possible repercussions with the spate of repression aided by the Anti-Terror Law. But this is not the time to be cowed or silent. It is a call of duty for us rights champions to stand firm by our mandate, and our conscience, to fight for the rights of the people amidst the shrinking democratic space under this regime,” he added.
After going to the police stations and the CHR on Monday, Apiag, Olalo, Lindo, Bishop Tequis, Nolasco and Monzon went around to personally remove the posters.
Lawyer Mary Ann Arnado of the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus called on “all the women in Davao to protect and defend Dr. Jean Lindo and all human rights defenders.”
“In the spirit of Kadayawan, let us all join hands in solidarity with this brave and courageous Dabawenya. Mabuhay ka Doc Jean,” Arnado said as she quoted the slain student activist Lean Alejandro’s “the line of fire is always a place of honor.”
Arnado said she has witnessed Doc Jean’s serving “numerous medical missions to treat Moro evacuees in Pikit and Maguindanao during the raging wars with the MILF” (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and how she served medical missions in farflung Lumad communities and even in war-ravaged East Timor in 1998.
“Despite threats and difficulties, Doc Jean went out of her comfort zone and chose the road less travelled to be able to serve the people. For her to be accused as a human rights violator and a berdugo is not only preposterous but the exact opposite of her impeccable track record spanning three decades of selfless service to the people especially women.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas and Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)