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    Aerial bombardments in a Trento village, Agusan del Sur force civilians to evacuate; wounded 16-year-old boy branded as NPA child rebel

    UA No: 2012-05-02
    UA Case                                 :
    Forcible evacuation; arbitrary arrest and detention; threat, harassment or intimidation; fake surrender; Indiscriminate firing, bombing or shelling; violation of children’s rights to protection

    Victim/s                                  :
    Of forcible evacuation; threat, harassment or intimidation

    ·         83 families (397 individuals), all are residents of Barangay (village) New Visayas, Trento municipality, Agusan del Sur province

    Arbitrary arrest and detention; violation of children’s rights; fake surrender and branding as New People’s Army child warrior:
    ·         “JESSIE,” 16 years old, male; member of Young People Sector, First Christian Ministry

    Arbitrary arrest and detention; with violation of children’s rights:

    ·         “Mimi,” 16 years old, female, younger sister of Jessie; member of Young People Sector, First Christian Ministry

    ·         Caridad Malimbasao, 55 years old, female, married, farmer, member of First Christian Ministry

    Threat, harassment or intimidation

    ·         Melchor Malimbasao, 54 years old, male, married to Caridad, farmer;   member of Upper New Visayas Organic Farmers Association (UNVOFA), a member organization of Trento Farmers’ Association (TFA) and affiliated with Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines)

    Place of Incident                 :
    New Visayas village, Trento town, Agusan del Sur province

    Date of Incident                   :
    May 7, 2012 to present

    Alleged Perpetrator(s)       :
    Some 60 combined elements of the 25th Infantry Battalion (10th Infantry Division) under the command of Lt. Col. Cesar Molina, and 75th Infantry Battalion (4th Infantry Division) under the command of Lt. Col. Reuben Agarcio.

    The 4th and 10th IDPA is headed by Eastern Mindanao Command lead by Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia.

    Branding of child/minor as NPA: Maj. Eugenio Osias IV and Maj. Gen. Victor Felix, spokesperson and commanding officer, respectively, of the 4th ID

    Account of the Incident:

    On the morning of May 7, 2012, residents of Purok 5, Sitio (zone) Upper New Visayas, village of New Visayas were preparing for their annual community festival on May 13 despite the presence of about 60 army troops of the 25th Infantry Battalion (under the command of the 10th Infantry Division), Philippine Army which, arrived on May 4.  The soldiers were geared for heavy combat operations. The village of New Visayas, Municipality of Trento, Agusan del Sur province, is among the communities that has mineral exploration activities by the Monkayo Consolidated Mining Corporation headed by Monkayo municipal mayor Junjun Brillantes’ wife, and funded by Taiwanese-owned Yinyi Phil Investment Holding Group, Inc, and Philsaga Mining Corporation.

    Farmer Melchor Malimbasao, 54, together with his fellow zone residents, was tasked to construct a makeshift hut for the festival. At around 7:00am, Melchor instructed his 16 year old son, Jessie, to gather wood materials for the hut from the forested area about 300 meters away from their home. An hour later, a volley of gunfire was heard coming from the direction of the forested area, close to where Jessie went. It was reported that some 60 combined elements of the 25th IB and 75th IB (under the command of the 4th Infantry Division) were in a fire fight with suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

    Fearing for their lives, the residents of Sitio Upper New Visayas evacuated their homes and sought refuge at the New Visayas village hall. Melchor wanted to go to the forest to fetch his son, but could not due to the shooting which, lasted for two hours. Together with the rest of his family, Melchor evacuated and hoped that his son will safely run to the evacuation center.

    At past 1:00pm, a military helicopter and fighterplane arrived and dropped at least seven bombs near the community.

    A total of 83 families or 397 individuals including children, evacuated in the baranggay halls of New Visayas and Pulang Lupa villages. Jessie’s family kept looking for him at the evacuation center but he did not arrive until the following day.

    Some members of the 75th IB also arrived at the evacuation centers. Reports indicate that a number of community leaders were harassed by soldiers. Soldiers were also present as employees of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) distributed relief packs to the evacuees. A woman who gave birth a month before reported to have suffered bleeding in the course of the evacuation.

    On May 8, Melchor continued his search for his son. Together a team from Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP) and some community leaders, he went to the Municipal office to the seek assistance of Trento mayor Johnmark Billanes.

    Meanwhile, Jessie arrived at the evacuation center in his village with a wound in his left thigh. His mother Caridad and 16-year-old sister “Mimi” was going to bring Jessie to the hospital when members of the 75th IB arrested him. The soldiers said that they will take Jessie to the hospital. Caridad and “Mimi” did not leave Jessie and accompanied him onboard a military truck with the soldiers.

    A soldier told Caridad that Jessie will be brought to Patin-ay in San Francisco town, but was instead brought to the district hospital in Bunawan town, some 17 km from Trento. At around 8:00pm, Jessie was brought to Patin-ay village, Prospero town.

    At dawn of May 9, Jessie was transferred to Butuan Emergency Hospital. At around 8:00 a.m., Jessie was brought to the headquarters of the 4th ID at Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro City in the province of  Misamis Oriental. He was brought in Cagayan de Oro purportedly to be provided with free medical treatment by the military. His mother and sister were also brought to the Camp. They were not allowed to go out and were forbidden by soldiers to seek assistance from Karapatan. Caridad and “Mimi”’s cellphones were also closely monitored by the soldiers.

    Meanwhile, the evacuees had returned to their homes. Some residents however reported that their homes were ransacked and their properties stolen.

    On May 10, military spokesperson Maj. Eugenio Osias IV and commanding officer Maj. Gen. Victor Felix, both of the 4th ID, declared Jessie as an NPA child warrior wounded in a combat operation carried out by the 4th and 10th IDs at the boundaries of Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur provinces. The military, in a statement said that Jessie surrendered to the military camp in Bislig City.

    As of this writing, Jessie is still in the custody of the 4th ID. His father, Melchor, denies that Jessie is an NPA child warrior and has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus for his son.

    Other related incidents:

    Karapatan has documented similar cases of human rights violations under Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s administration, such as the following:

    ·               Soldiers of the 57th IBPA forcibly entered farmer Ramon Batoy’s house in Arakan, North Cotabato; and accused him of being an NPA on October 22, 2011. Batoy denied the allegations and resisted the military’s attempts to arrest him by fighting back with the use of a bolo.  One of the soldiers shot Batoy while his wife and children escaped for their lives.  One of the soldiers strapped a rifle on Batoy and then took pictures of him with the rifle. Batoy’s brother Roger Batoy, and neighbor Noli Badol were also mauled and arbitrarily arrested by soldiers.

    ·               On February 16, 2012, four individuals, two of them minors, were hunting for wild animals in the forests of Magdalena, Laguna when they were fired at by members of the Special Action Unit of the AFP and 1st IBPA. Jaycee Perez, 31 and Christian Roy Noceto, 15, were immediately killed. The other two, Francis Abanilla, 18 and Gino Banez, 15, survived but were injured. The military labelled the victims as NPAs.

    ·               Almost a thousand residents, many of them Mamanwa indigenous peoples, were forced to evacuate from their homes in early March 2012. Two military fighter planes dropped bombs near Ansili and Zapanta sub-villages in Kitcharao municipality, province of Agusan del Norte.

    Recommended Action:
    Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

    The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into the the aerial bombardment near the community of  New Visayas village, Trento, Agusan del Sur, the wounding and arbitrary detention of Jessie, and the arbitrary detention of his mother and sister.
    The immediate release of Jessie from military custody.
    The military to stop the labeling and targeting of civilians “enemies of the state” and the branding of children as “child warriors”
    The Philippine Government to withdraw its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innnocent and unarmed civilians.
    The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.
    You may send your communications to:

    H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
    President of the Republic, Malacañang Palace,
    JP Laurel St., San Miguel, Manila Philippines
    Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
    Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
    E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph / opnet@ops.gov.ph

    Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles
    Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
    Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
    7th Floor Agustin Building I
    Emerald Avenue, Pasig City 1605
    Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066; Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216
    osec@opapp.gov.ph

    Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin
    Secretary, Department of National Defense
    Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
    E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
    Voice:+63(2) 911-9281 / 911-0488; Fax:+63(2) 911 6213
    Email: osnd@philonline.com

    Atty. Leila De Lima
    Secretary, Department of Justice
    Padre Faura St., Manila
    Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
    Trunkline  523-84-81 loc.214
    Fax: (+632) 521-1614
    Email:  soj@doj.gov.ph

    Hon.  Loretta Ann P. Rosales
    Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
    SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
    Commonwealth Avenue,
    Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
    Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
    Fax: (+632) 929 0102
    Email:   chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com, lorettann@gmail.com

    URGENT ACTION ALERT Prepared by:
    KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights

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