The Philippine National Police (PNP) doesn't even care anymore if it looks or sounds ridiculous.
Its leadership has bought into the playbook of President Rodrigo Duterte: Hurl charges, however absurd. While everyone is chortling or screaming on social media, swoop down and arrest people.
Lie and lie if you must, just grab your targets.
Or kill them.
“Two top NPA leaders fall,” claimed the PNP, a day after human rights defenders reported on January 28 that Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chair of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Org, and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Northern Mindanao Region chair, Irineo Udarbe, had gone missing.
Northern Mindanao police spokesperson, Supt. Surki Sereñas, said cops found firearms, fragmentation grenades and subversive documents on both men.
He said they were arrested in downtown Cagayan de Oro City on the basis of a warrant issued by Judge Emmanuel P. Pasal of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 38, for four counts of attempted murder and frustrated murder.
Known Lumad spokesman
Hogwash doesn’t even come close.
Goaynon is someone who regularly appears in forums, including those held in big universities; in gabfests hosted by journalists, in rallies; in dialogues with government officials.
I covered him and Kerlan Fanagel as they negotiated with Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada for a stay on the dismantling of the Lumad camp in Liwasang Bonifacio during the Aquino administration’s hosting of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Manila.
That was in the mayor’s office. This video taken at the sidelights of that meeting and you can see a police officer and Estrada himself passing behind them.
Goaynon is also a familiar face at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the National Commission on Indigenous Filipinos; he has negotiated with dozens of police officers in various rally through the years.
That’s not the profile of a New People's Army (NPA) leader.
In fact, he and Udarbe were accosted by the PNP on their way to a briefing with officers of Pig-uyonan, a member organization of Kalumbay.
They were going to join the group’s scheduled dialogue with the 65th Infantry Battalion, a meeting facilitated by the local office of the CHR. That’s how their companions knew something had happened to them, when phone calls to them went unanswered.
You can’t even call Datu Jomorito or the Northern Mindanao Region KMP chair “shadowy”.
Both men did their campaign work often in full view of still and video cameras.
But the datu has been a clear target by state agents for some time now, since Duterte declared open season on suspected supporters of communist rebels.
He and the Pig-uyonan group filed a complaint on January 22 against the 65th Infantry Battalion (IB) for harassment and forced surrender.
A tarpaulin bearing a picture of the datu, accusing him of recruiting the Lumad to the New People’s Army, went up in Talakag, Bukidnon.
On the same day the two were arrested, the Sandugo Moro and Lumad alliance also reported that a member of a KMP affiliate was found dead.
Sergio Atay, Jr., 35 years old, was found hogtied with 5 bullets in the head.
“Medico-legal investigation shows that he suffered torture marks,” said Sandugo leader Jerome Aba.
Aba said Atay was travelling along the highway of Sapang Dalaga, Misamis Occidental and Rizal, Zamboanga del Norte when he was “stopped, held and interrogated at the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) check point in the same area.”
The next information they got was about his death.
At least four other Lumad community leaders have disappeared since December 12, 2018, according to the human rights group, Karapatan.
Human rights defenders suspect that if the alert for Datu Jamorito and his companion had not flashed early, they could have ended like Atay.
Death in a bus
Just today, January 30, around 2:30 am, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randy Felix P. Malayao, was shot dead inside a bus in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya.
A police report said Malayao’s ride was at a bus stop when the gunman reportedly climbed aboard, approached the activist and shot him twice at point-blank range.
The independent news outfit Kodao said Malayao was asleep. He was killed on the spot.
“We know who is responsible for my brother’s death: the one who ordered them (communists) all killed,” his older sister, Perla, told Kodao.
Duterte has at various times offered a $500 reward for every communist rebel killed and threatened to create a death squad to go after suspected militants.
The President has also tagged clearly legal organizations as communist fronts. He has vowed to use the “Soeharto” model of rounding up and then killing legal activists in Indonesia in the mid-1960s.
His aides have said he might have just been joking. But Duterte’s communications head also said leaders of front organizations are fair game.
Malayao faced no charges. Before Duterte scuttled peace talks, he was one of the spokespersons of the NDFP negotiating panel in Europe. He was also an NDFP peace panel consultant for constitutional and political reforms.
The activist was no stranger to state terror.
The AFP intelligence service and PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group operatives “abducted” him on May 15, 2008.
Human rights records note that Malayao was blindfolded for four days and underwent much physical and psychological torture as state agents tried to force him into confessing a part in the conspiracy to murder ex-military Cagayan governor and lawmaker Rodolfo Aguinaldo.
He was acquitted of the charge and a separate case after spending more than two years in jail.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.