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    Human rights volunteers harassed, arbitrarily arrested and detained in Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental, Philippines

    UA No: 2011-03-05
    (initial report)

    UA Date :
    20 March 2011

    UA Case :
    Threat/Harassment/Intimidation; Illegal arrest and Detention

    Victim/s :
    Christopher Solano, 18 years old
    Althea Villagonzalo, 18years old
    Whelgester Paglinawan, 21 years old
    Manuel Bentillo, 51, member of Bayan Muna

    all are volunteers of Karapatan – Central Visayas Human Rights Monitoring Team

    Place of Incident :
    Sta. Catalina, Negros Oriental

    Date of Incident :
    17 March 2011

    Alleged Perpetrator(s) :
    Some members of the Alpha Company of the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA)

    Account of the Incident:

    On March 17, 2011, the five-man HR Team of Karapatan-Central Visayas went to the village of Barangay Nagbinlod, municipality of Sta. Catalina in Negros Oriental, to document reported human rights abuses of the state security forces following an alleged clash between the military and the New People’s Army (NPA).

    The HR Team was in Sta. Catalina since February 14, 2011, documenting human rights violations in the militarized communities of the municipality. On March 17, local farmers reported to the HR Team that Marvin Villegas, 18, a village resident, was shot by members of the 1st Scout Rangers Battalion while the youth was taking the family’s carabao to the fields. The HR Team and 11 farmers were assisting Villegas to get medical help, when they were all arrested by members of the Alpha Company of the 79th IBPA.

    The victims were held in custody by the soldiers along the village road side of Bgy. Nagbinlod, and questioned by the military.

    Nine of the local farmers were later released, while the rest were brought to the Sta. Catalina Municipal Police Station, and guarded by soldiers led by 1st Lt. Tagle. The soldiers accused the HR Team and Villegas as members of the NPA. Villegas, together with his mother, was later taken away by the soldiers, purportedly to Dumaguete City.

    Until this writing, no charges were filed against the victims who are being accused by the soldiers as members of the NPA.

    Recommended Action:

    Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

    The immediate release of Christopher Solano, Althea Villagonzalo, Whelgester Paglinawan, and Manuel Bantillo from detention.

    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 incident and illegal arrest and detention of the human rights workers.

    The military to stop the labeling and targeting of human rights defenders as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”

    The Philippine Government to withdraw its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innocent 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.

    The investigation of the shooting of Marvin Villegas as well as the illegal arrest and detention of the human rights defenders and filing of charges against the perpetrators.

    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 (OPAPP)
    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

    Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below.

    URGENT ACTION Prepared by:
    KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
    urgentaction@karapatan.org

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