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    Rights groups score Aquino government on disappearance of anti-mining activist

    By KARAPATAN

    “As the world commemorates the International Day of the Disappeared on August 30, another person is victimized. We strongly condemn the enforced disappearance of anti-mining activist Bryan Epa and we hold the Aquino administration accountable for this heinous act,” said Lorena ‘Aya’ Santos, secretary general of Families of Desaparecidos for Justice.

    Epa is a Katribu Partylist organizer in Nueva Vizcaya and has led campaigns against destructive mining in the province. In communities where there are barricades against the mining exploration of the Royalco Mining Exploration, residents experienced military harassment and intimidation, red tagging, surveillance, and sexual harassment.

    On August 19, prior to Epa’s disappearance, 40 members of the Civilian Auxiliary Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) went to an anti-mining barricade at Binuangan village. They pretended to be members of the New People’s Army looking for their “comrades” who, they say, were supposed to be in the barricade. The protesters asserted there are no NPA members with them, and that guns are not allowed in the barricade. The men were asked to leave but insisted to stay until the following day.

    On the day of Epa’s disappearance on August 21, 2013, around 9 o’clock p.m., Bgy. Councilor Alfonso Shog-oy dropped off Epa at a friend’s house in Brgy. Salvacion, Dumlao Blvd. to get his bag. Both Epa and Shog-oy, noticed three policemen at a street corner nearby.

    On his way back to pick up Epa, Shog-oy saw six policemen inside a patrol car; three of them got off the car and approached Epa and tried to take away his bag. According to Shog-oy, Epa asked the police why they were taking his bag. Later, Shog-oy saw Epa being pushed by the policemen inside the patrol car, as they said they are taking him for questioning because he is “suspicious looking”. The police tried to handcuff Epa, punched him in the stomach and hit him with bats, when he tried to resist.

    The following day, Shog-oy and Atty. Fidel Santos went to the Philippine National Police Bayombong station but policemen claimed Epa was already released and that his name is Felix Bacsa Jr. There was no record or police blotter, however, on Bryan Epa’s arrest.

    Desaparecidos said that prior to Epa’s disappearance, they have monitored 14 victims of enforced disappearances under the Aquino administration.

    Human rights group Karapatan called on Aquino and his “henchmen” in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to surface Epa and all victims of enforced disappearances.

    “Epa’s disappearance proves that the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law of the Noynoy government is merely an embellishment under Oplan Bayanihan as disappearances continue. The law is a fictitious detail in the overall picture of repression under Oplan Bayanihan,” Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan said.

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