Rights group loses contact with team probing reported deaths of indigenous folk

Inday Espina-Varona, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 03 2017 11:05 PM

Activists are rushing quick reaction teams to a rural village in Antipolo City, Rizal province after human rights group Karapatan reported losing contact with a 75-person team on a mission to probe the reported deaths of two members of the indigenous Dumagat tribe.

Karapatan executive director Christina Palabay told ABS-News CBN that their last contact with the group led by Gloria "Oya" Rodriguez of Karapatan Rizal and Georgelyn Rafael "Gigi" Millizo of Karapatan Southern Tagalog, was around 5 p.m. 

The group was en route to Brgy. Calawis, Antipolo, Rizal, where they got reports of two Dumagat farmers allegedly killed in the course of the 2nd Infantry Division's operations in the community.

Palabay said that a few hours after losing contact with the team, residents got in touch saying they were allegedly held by elements of the 80th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA). There is also a paramilitary detachment in the area, a source from Karapatan Rizal said.

The Armed Forces on Thursday said troops clashed that morning with a New People's Army (NPA) team in Calawis, claiming the group was preparing to "liquidate a former supporter in Brgy. Puray in neighboring Rodriguez town."

The 2nd Infantry Division public affairs office said there were no reported casualties from the clash.

"We are unable to contact the members of the mission, as of this time," Palabay said. 

The area where the rights team was being held is an hour's trek away from the clash site, said a local contact of Karapatan.

"We urge government authorities to stop the harassment against human rights defenders investigating rights abuses of the military," Palabay added. 

The Antipolo alert came hours after the Save Our Schools (SOS) network reported the murder Thursday night of Ramon Dagaas Pesadilla, 59, and his wife, Leonela in Kalinga Housing Project, Brgy. Osmena, Compostela town in Compostela Valley.

SOS said two unidentified assailants barged into the couple's home and shot them dead.

The Pesadillas donated land to the Lumad school Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center in Spur Dos, Barangay Ngan, Compostela.

The AFP has accused alternative Lumad schools, in areas where nine of 10 youth are deprived of opportunities for education, of being allegly run by communist rebels.