ICHRP Australian Chapter: Australian Council of Trade Unions; Maritime Union of Australia, Victorian Branch; SEARCH Foundation; Philippines Australia Union Link; Action for Peace & Development in the Philippines, Migrante Australia
H E Benigno Simeon Aquino III
President of the Republic of the Philippines
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
The Australian Chapter of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines calls on your government to take urgent action in response to the extrajudicial killing of Lito Abion, 44 years old, a habal-habal (motorcycle for hire) driver. He was waiting for passengers when he was fired upon by two gunmen on September 28, 2015.
According to Katungo Lumad Alert, Lito Abion was a member of Tagdumahan, a Lumad (collective term for the indigenous peoples of Mindanao) organization in San Luis, Agusan del Sur.
Tagdumahan has been resisting the entry of mining in the ancestral lands of the Banwaon and Manobo peoples in Agusan del Sur. Its members had refused to merge their areas with the group of Mario Napungahan, a chieftain who had been pushing for a unified Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title. They fear that the unified CADT under Napungahan, who is known to be open to mining, would result to the destruction of their lands.
At around 12 noon of September 28, the victim with his fellow drivers, were waiting for passengers at the terminal of Purok 2, Dona Flavia, San Luis, Agusan del Sur. The group was talking when a red Honda XRM motorcycle, with two men, parked nearby. After a few moments, the passenger of the motorcycle pulled out a handgun and fired at Lito. The victim sustained two bullet wounds in his back and another in the nape. The gunman then boarded the motorcycle and left.
Jun-jun, a habal-habal driver who had witnessed the killing, said that it was the same motorcycle the gunmen used when village chieftain Angis Precioso, a founding member of Tagdumahan, was gunned down by suspected state forces under the 29th Infantry Battalion stationed in San Luis, Agusan del Sur December 22, 2014.
Mario Napungahan was a former member of the New People’s Army (NPA). He was recruited by the Philippine Army as a member of the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) when he surrendered. As a member of the CAFGU, he joined the military operations of the Philippine Army in the Lumad communities. But holding the title of a datu (one of the community leaders), he used his influence and position to form an armed group known to the community as Rebel Returnees. These armed men function as an informal auxiliary force of the military, joining the state forces in their operations in the communities
Mario accused all Tagdumahan leaders and members who refused to sign the application of a unified CADT as supporters or members of the NPA, making them ‘legitimate’ targets for counter-insurgency operations. In 2005, several members of Tagdumahan – Virgie Solis, Inday Lozada, Mat Morales and Bebot Nuer – were killed by suspected state or state-sponsored elements. They were all accused by Mario as either members or supporters of the NPA. Lito Abion was also among those accused, so he was forced to leave San Luis that same year. Lito returned to San Luis only last year, 2014.
Excellency, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, we urge you to:
- Publicly condemn the extrajudicial killing of Lito Abion
- Create an independent body to investigate the extrajudicial killing of Lito Abion
- Respect and observe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the Philippines is a signatory and party to all the major Human Rights instruments;
- Junk Oplan Bayanihan, your government’s counterinsurgency program that has victimized countless Filipinos.
Finally we call on your administration and all its institutions to uphold the basic human rights of the citizens whom you have sworn to serve.
For human rights and peace,
Global Council, ICHRP
Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin,
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon,
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights,
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III,
Chair, Justice and Human Rights Committee,
Hon. Democrito O. Plaza,
Governor, Province of Agusan del Sur,
Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs
Hon Ms Julie Bishop MHR
Rural Missionaries of the Philippines