We condemn the arrest of RMP-NMR staff, lay worker Julito Otacan, and five other Banwaon human rights defenders this morning in Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.
Otacan is a field worker under the Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Human Rights in the Philippines, a project funded by the European Union and implemented by the RMP-NMR and Relief International. Otacan, in his work under the project, had been going around the Banwaon communities in Agusan del Sur, to organize and facilitate the training of community members in their capacity as Human Rights Defenders (HRDs). Under martial law, attacks against HRDs had been heightened, with community organizers and legitimate community meetings put under surveillance of state forces.
We are demanding their immediate release and for the government to ensure their protection while they are doing their legitimate work for indigenous peoples’ rights.
Project Manager, ‘Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Human Rights in the Philippines’ Project
Program Coordinator, RMP-NMR Rural Poor Organizing Support Program
27 October 2017
*Below is the updated alert released by the Katungod Lumad Monitors. Link to the alert can be found here.
Banwaon rights defenders arrested by military
Rural Missionaries of the Philippines field worker, Julito Otacan, together with five other Banwaon community members, Alejandro Barluado, Jonas Acosta, Noli Tahudan, Marlon Talatayod, and Joel Trasona, were arrested this morning in Barangay Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.
Military personnel went into the house of Otacan at around six in the morning today, 27 October 2017, and took him to the barangay covered court where he, with the others, is detained as of the writing of this alert. The military allegedly found grenades, firearms, and other equipment in their houses.
Two 6x6 army trucks, a war tank, two patrol cars, and two white vans of armed state forces had been deployed to the community during their arrest. In response, community members have encircled the covered court to ensure the safety of their fellow Banwaons. However, they were not allowed to go near the detainees.
Since the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, military personnel have been going to Otacan’s house, looking for him.
Otacan is a field worker under the Protecting and Promoting Indigenous Human Rights in the Philippines, a project funded by the European Union and implemented by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Region and Relief International. Their work is to organize and facilitate the training of community members in their capacity as Human Rights Defenders.
The five other Banwaons arrested are all members of the Banwaon Peoples’ Organization, Tagdumahan. Tagdumahan has long been targeted by the military because of their vocal assertion of their rights to the Banwaon’s ancestral domain targeted by logging and mining companies.
Update: Noli Tahudan had allegedly been brought to the battalion headquarters of the 26thIB in Poblacion, Talacogon, Agusan del Sur, while the rest were brought to the Police Station in Rubako, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.