As Typhoon Maring battered many parts of the country with its hard rains, an anti-mining activist has gone missing.
Bryan Epa, 34 years old, was reported missing after police arrested him last August 21, but has not been seen since. According to Karapatan-Cagayan Valley, village official Alfonso Shog-oy saw six policemen take Epa aboard their patrol vehicle in Barangay Salvacion Dumlao Boulevard, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya. The witness then related how he heard the policemen say that Epa will be taken into custody because he looked ‘suspicious’. Epa resisted arrest, he was punched in the stomach by two of the policemen, and then hit in the hand by the baton. The police managed to cart him away despite his protestations.
The following day, Shog-oy and Atty. Fidel Santos sought Epa at the police station, but they did not find him there. The police claimed that they have released a detained person on the same night that Epa was arrested, but according to records, it was a person named Felix Bacsa Jr. Epa’s whereabouts remain unknown.
Epa is an anti-mining activist and among the residents of Nueva Vizcaya opposing the entry of Australian mining company Royalco Philippines Inc. Epa is among the locals manning the barricades, set up since 2007 to prevent mining equipment from entering their lands.
Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP, National Alliance of Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations in the Philippines) expressed its concern over the disappearance of Epa, citing other cases of enforced disappearances among activists. “The climate of impunity in the Aquino administration is a breeding ground for grave human rights violations especially of those perceived as ‘enemies of the state,’ including those resisting mining operations,” Piya Macliing Malayao, KAMP spokesperson said. “We fear for the safety of Bryan Epa.”
According to KAMP, there had been 35 extra-judicial killings of indigenous peoples in the three-year administration of President Aquino, and most of these killings were in the context of community resistance against mines, plantations, or dams. Leaders and members of local people’s organizations and their family are the usual targets of liquidation by state forces and paramilitary groups.
KAMP says the police are liable for the disappearance of the anti-mining activist, because he was last seen under their custody. “Given the human rights situation in the Philippines, and the brutality shown by the arresting police, it all bodes ill for his fate,” Malayao said.