The arrest and illegal detention of a University of the Philippines professor in Cateel, Davao Oriental by the 67th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army is yet another blow on the typhoon Pablo victims’ self-help rehabilitation efforts.
“To throw Prof. Kim Gargar in jail on trumped up charges because he wanted to help the Pablo victims in rehabilitating and developing their communities is not only violating his rights but is also injustice to the communities he is assisting. Prof. Gargar should be immediately released,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
“It is disgusting enough that the BS Aquino government failed to provide support for the typhoon victims. But it is more detestable that the government and its armed forces’ militarist efforts to prevent the people, those who were devastated by the typhoon and those who support them, from taking up the initiative to help themselves and better their situation,” she said.
Prof. Gargar, according to his organization Agham, opted to be temporarily seconded to Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao to directly help in the efforts to restore the communities. When he joined a humanitarian mission to the Pablo-devastated areas in April this year, Prof. Gargar saw government’s inaction and neglect amid massive destruction, and the need to support the people in the rehabilitation work.
Prior to Prof. Gargar’s arrest and detention, Cristina Jose, a barangay councilor in Bagangga, Davao Oriental, and leader of Barug Katawhan (People Stand Up) was killed on 4 March. Jose was one of the leaders of the typhoon Pablo victims who demanded the release of relief goods from the warehouse of the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD), saying they were discriminated against by the government agency because of the military’s red tagging.
Jose was shot, by three men aboard a motorcycle, on the left side of her back, with the bullet exiting through her right breast.
Elements of the 67th Infantry Battalion — the same military unit responsible for Prof. Gargar’s arrest — had branded Jose as “kagawad ng mga NPA” (the New People’s Army’s councilor). Jose received threats prior to her death. Jose was among those who assisted Karapatan to investigate cases of human rights violations after the 67th IBPA conducted military operations in Jose’s community in January 2013.
In July, members of an international solidarity mission mostly from the United States, who visited the communities hit by typhoon Pablo were “appalled that they saw more soldiers than rehabilitated homes.” They also experienced first-hand military harassment when in less than five minutes upon their arrival, military assets were already taking their photos.
“The illegal arrest and detention of Prof. Kim Gargar, justified by red tagging, is yet another desperate move by the BS Aquino government to suppress the people’s collective action towards meaningful change,” Palabay said.
Karapatan calls for the immediate release of Prof. Kim Gargar and the immediate pull-out of military and paramilitary units in civilian communities as it warned of “more indiscriminate attacks against the people with less than three months left before Oplan Bayanihan’s deadline, and with the people becoming dissatisfied with government due to massive corruption.”
Cristina “Tinay” Palabay
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.