Junty Sedom, an active member of Kaugalingong Sistemang Igpapasindug tu Lumadnong Ugpaan (KASILO), and 10 other Tigwahanons were “arrested” and detained on June 22, 2017, a month after the presidential declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
The 11 Tigwahanons were apprehended by soldiers of the 68th Infantry Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division who were conducting illegal house-to-house searches in Sitio Alimpulos, Barangay Cawayan, San Fernando, Bukidnon.
Before the “arrest”, Junty Sedom and other Tigwahonons were conducting reforestation activities as part of the National Greening Program (NGP) of the DENR in their community. They ceased their activities when armed soldiers of the 6th IB arrived and posted around the area. The soldiers told them that they were searching for rebels.
With hands behind their backs, the Tigwahonons were instructed to take the soldiers to their respective houses. The soldiers searched each house. After raiding Junty Sedom’s house, the soldiers brought out a set of M16 bullets. The soldiers also told the Tigwahonons that they found 15 M16 rifles. Sedom and 10 others were arrested and detained for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
The community decried the accusations and demanded the immediate release of the eleven claiming the “evidences” or effects found during the search were planted and introduced by the soldiers. The community leaders held a dialogue with the AFP resulting to the release of ten Tigwahanons. Junty Sedom, however, was turned over to local police authorities with charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. He is currently detained in the Provincial Jail in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.
The circumstances leading to the arrest of Sedom are questionable. The soldiers blatantly forced the Tigwahonons threatening them at gunpoint to enter their premises in violation of their right to domicile. The searches were conducted without securing appropriate warrants. The military operation and entry into the civilian community were also conducted without the consent of the Tigwahonons.
Furthermore, martial law has been used as license for the AFP to attack civilians. Martial law, however, does not suspend the constitutional and civil rights of the people, including the right of civilians to life, liberty and security in their communities. This misinterpretation of martial law has led to the escalation of human rights violations including the systematic and illegal house-to-house searches and illegal arrest and detention of Lumads based on planted “evidences”.
President Duterte has declared his full support for the AFP in its all-out war against the CPP-NPA-NDFP. He has also expressed his disregard for human rights, carelessly jeopardizing the lives and fundamental freedoms of the peoples especially the Lumads who often have the least access to the justice system, the media, and thus, to remedy.
The story above is an excerpt from 'State of unChange', a report on Lumad rights a year into the Duterte administration. Download the full report in this link.