(UPDATE) Groups criticize killings of dissident indigenous peoples in Tumandok, saying it is a “clear manifestation of the dangers of red marking”
Several groups condemned what they called the âmilitarizationâ of Indigenous Peoples (IP) areas after the massacre and arrest of members of the Tumandok community on Panay Island.
Nine people from the Panay Tumandok community were killed while 17 others were arrested during simultaneous police operations on Panay Island on Wednesday (December 30th). The suspects are said to have fought the authorities when they were arrested.
However, the human rights group Panay Alliance Karapatan denied the police allegation and said the killed PAs had been identified by the military as members and supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army ( CPP-NPA).
Those arrested in connection with the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and Regional Police Office-Western Visayas (PRO-6) operation were also part of the community of the intellectual property.
The PRO-6, in a statement, said the operation was implemented on the basis of information from civilians in the region regarding the presence of people with high-powered firearms.
This operation was a regular activity of the police and was aimed at curbing the proliferation of firearms and explosives on Panay Island, the police statement added.
Police insist on retaliating
Meanwhile, in an interview on Sunday January 3, the PNP insisted that the indigenous people killed were members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and that they had fought back to resist arrest.
âThere may be members of their party who did not agree to be served with a search warrant. As a result, there was a meeting and they were killed, âPNP spokesman Brigadier General Ildebrandi Usana said without citing a basis.
The National Union of Panay People’s Advocates (NUPL-Panay) lambasted authorities, saying the issuance of the search warrants “was nothing more than an excuse to carry out an operation to kill and arrest the leaders local Tumandok communities who actively advocated for the rights and interests of farmers and indigenous peoples.
The Tumandok community has long campaigned against the construction of the Jalaur Dam on Panay Island. The Jalaur Dam is a billion-peso government project that would impact 18 barangays in the region, most of which are ancestral lands of the Tumandok community.
âNeither a search warrant nor an arrest warrant constitutes a license to commit murder. There is no presumption of lawfulness when people end up dying as a result of the execution of such warrants, âthe NUPL-Panay statement said.
AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People said what happened to the community of Tumandok was a “clear manifestation of the dangers of red marking” and a move to scare away vocal dissidents.
Bro. Marco Sulayao, president of the Promotion of Church Peoples’ Response (PCPR) in Panay and Guimaras, blamed the murder on the National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
âThese defenders of the environment are not communist terrorists as their authors accuse them. AGHAM urges that state forces and the NTF-ELCAC who spread dangerous lies and carry out witch hunts against government critics must be held accountable for the heinous crimes committed not only against the Tumandok people, but against all victims of red labeling, âAGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology added.
Youth Act Now Against Tyranny-Panay said the recent murders show authorities have modeled themselves to excuse the murders of dissidents by calling them communist rebels.
âIf it was not clear before, it cannot be denied now: there is no war against communist revolutionaries, but a war against dissidentsâ¦. The AFP-PNP (Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police) assertion that they were rebels undeniably proves the tendency of government armed forces to legitimize EJKs with red markings, just as they legitimized EJKs with drug tagging, âthe group said.
Amihan’s National President Zenaida Soriano, along with other peasant women in the group, demanded justice for all victims of political persecution under the Duterte administration. The group also urged the public to condemn the growing number of extrajudicial killings and unlawful arrests in the country.
Here’s what other groups were saying about it: