Imprisoned and threatened indigenous people's leaders, church workers, and teachers are proof of Duterte's tyrannical rule

Press Release | September 19, 2017

"When a country’s church people and teachers are being imprisoned for working alongside marginalized communities, it becomes indicative of widespread repression and the State’s intolerance for genuine opposition. Such a situation exposes how far we are from a democracy, worsened by awards and status accorded to murderers, plunderers and rights violators," said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay during a rally in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) on August 13, 2017 to call for the release of indigenous people, church workers, and teachers imprisoned by the Duterte administration.

On August 19, 2016 Amy Pond, a volunteer teacher, researcher and curriculum developer for the Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) and coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines in the Southern Mindanao Region (RMP-SMR) was arrested and charged with trumped-up cases of murder and frustrated murder. Another consultant of the STTICLC, Dominiciano Muya, was also arrested on October 2014, during the presidency of BS Aquino.

Palabay also cited the recent warrant of arrest targeting teachers of the Center for Lumad Advocacy, Networking and Services, Inc. (CLANS) and members of the school’s parent-teacher community association. Trumped-up criminal charges of murder and frustrated murder were lodged against the teachers by the Marine Battalion Landing Team 2 (MBLT 2). of attacks Following this series of attacks and harassment against CLANS, 33 community schools operating in different areas in at least 5 provinces in Mindanao have been forced to close.

Karapatan’s secretary general added that ‘the attacks on schools, its students and personnel is an unforgivable assault on the basic human right to education. These initiatives to provide social services for indigenous communities long neglected by the government should be lauded, not subjected to attack. How many more of our people’s basic rights will this regime take away?’

Palabay also noted the illegal arrest of a Dumagat farmer on June 12, 2010.  Eddie Cruz was tortured while in detention, and was charged with trumped-up cases of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.  On June this year, Cruz’s father died of a stroke. When Cruz tried to appeal to visit the wake of his father, the court denied his request. Cruz was not able to see his father for the last time. Also on September 12, 2017, elderly and ailing political prisoner Marcos Aggalao died while in hospital arrest.  Hailing from Kalinga, Aggalao advocated for the protection of their ancestral domain and stood firmly in opposition against the building of the Chico Dam during the Marcos dictatorship.  

"We have fathers who can no longer witness the long-awaited release of their son. We also have sisters, mothers, and family members who will never see their loved ones come out of prison alive. This level of inhumanity is a hallmark of the past and current regimes," Palabay added.

"The Duterte regime and his State forces have targeted not only Lumad school teachers and indigenous people’s leaders, but also progressive church leaders," said Palabay. On May 11, 2017, Bishop Carlo Morales of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) was accosted by the military in Ozamiz City, along with NDFP peace consultant Rommel Salinas,  public school teacher Ma. Teofilina Morales and their IFI driver. Trumped up cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives were filed against Bishop Morales and Salinas, while the other two were released.

Palabay also cited the case of another church leader, Pastor Kama Sanong, who was illegally arrested in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat on July 11, 2017. Pastor Kama Sanong is a pastor of the Dulangan Manobo Evangelical Church. Pastor Sanong is also an active member of a local Lumad organization at the forefront of the defense for their ancestral land. On August 11, DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II refused to heed the request of religious and progressive groups to free Bishop Morales and Pastor Kama Sanong.  

As of August 31, 2017, there are already 430 political prisoners in various jails in the country, 85 of them arrested under the Duterte regime. Karapatan also notes that at least 70 of the 430 political prisoners are from indigenous communities.

"These arrests are but desperate attempts to quell the people’s resistance. However, political repression as a means to suppress dissent only works in the mind of fascists. The continuation of policies such as Oplan Kapayapaan and martial law in Mindanao, which have continued the dirty practice of filing of trumped-up charges and increased the number of political prisoners, only exposes Duterte’s tyrannical tendencies. These attacks are proof of the righteousness of our action, of the correctness of our persistence to struggle against State terror," concluded Palabay.


Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580