Armed man patrols Mindanao conference of human rights defenders
An armed man believed to be a government intelligence officer was apprehended by convenors and delegates of the Barug Katungod Mindanao Conference today at the conference venue in Cagayan de Oro City. The intelligence man carried an ID bearing the name Rolando L. Gomonit, Sr. He was caught in possession of a .45 caliber pistol and two magazines of ammunition.
Identifying himself to the secretariat as a member of the media, he asked for a conference kit and was looking through the names of the delegation of the conference. In the registration sheet, he identified himself as a member of an organization he named “Lumad”.
The secretariat then asked the assistance of Barug’s local partner Karapatan – Northern Mindanao and the local Lumad group Kalumbay. They recognized him as the same intelligence officer they have apprehended in one of their human rights activities this year.
Gomonit was immediately turned over to the police. Delegates asked for his camera phone when some of them reported that he was seen taking pictures of the delegates. His phone was found by one of the delegates in the women’s toilet. This they also turned over to the police.
When asked how he knew about the conference, he said he just followed one of the delegates who was wearing a shirt of one of the member organizations of the conference.
About a hundred human rights activists in Mindanao gathered in Cagayan de Oro City today for the Barug Katungod Mindanao (Mindanao Stand for Human Rights) Conference as a response to the intensifying military attacks and political repression experienced by fellow human rights defenders in Mindanao.
The conference condemned the recent AFP-backed paramilitary attacks on a school director and two Lumad leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, and the Talaandig and Manobo victims of a massacre allegedly perpetrated by military units in Pangantucan, Bukidnon.
The shameless deployment by the government of an armed intelligence man on a human rights conference is a glaring example of impunity in Mindanao. Armed intelligence men roam free in the cities and communities, documenting gatherings and meetings and reporting them to the military and the police. These information become one of the government’s sources for trumped-up charges being filed against human rights activists and villification of their organizations and activities.
However, under the internal security plan Oplan Bayanihan of the Aquino government, any information against activists becomes a license to kill, massacre, arrest and villify activists, human rights defenders, youth, peasant and worker organizers, Lumad and Moro rights workers, and members of peoples organizations.
Barug Katungod Mindanao believes that the Aquino government is hellbent on attaining its Oplan Bayanihan targets before the end of his term in 2016. It has thus been intensifying its attacks on human rights defenders by making human rights activities a basis for filing trumped up charges. This shows a new trend of criminalizing human rights defenders for their human rights work.