By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are at it again.
According to the Katribu Indigenous Peoples’ Partylist, the AFP is directly behind a criminalization and vilification campaign against its national vice-president and second nominee Genasque Enriquez.
The AFP, Katribu said, has filed charges of murder and frustrated murder against Genasque, alleging that he and 36 others are members of the New People’s Army and among those who figured in a armed encounter against the 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippines Army in Bunawan, Agusan del Sur last 21 July 2012.The case is under investigation by the office of Hon. Felix P. Mesa, Assistant Provincial Prosecutor of Agusan del Sur.
Genasque is also the secretary-general of Kasalo-CaragaThe Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organisasyon-Caraga (Kasalo-Caraga). He and Kasalo were the first to sound the alarm over the ongoing militarization in Zapanta Valley, Bray. Bangayan, Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte and Ferlda, Alegria, Surigao del Norte. In statements issued to the media, Genasque has charged the AFP of perpetrating countless human rights violations against the Lumad-Mamanwa people in their communities. He said the indigenous peoples in the Caraga region are perennial targets of intensive militarization. Enriquez is a Lumad and a Manobo from Surigao del Sur.
In defense of Genasque, Katribu national president Beverly Longid slammed what she said was the AFP’s acts of “harassment and intimidation.” She said the murder charges are all part of a ” a vile attempt of the military to stop Enriquez in his activism on the recognition and protection of indigenous peoples rights.”
Longid said Enriquez and fellow Lumads have been vocal in opposing heightened militarization, corporate mining and commercial plantations in the Caraga region.
Both Enriquez and Katribu learned of the charges against the former after a report came out in the August 16 edition of a local newspaper Periodico.
“Enriquez had not been involved in the said encounter nor is he a member of the NPA. This is an old tactic of the military. They vilify as terrorists, linking members and leaders of legitimate organizations and progressive partylist groups to the NPA or any underground revolutionary organization; then include them in malicious suits for every alleged encounter they had with the NPA. This is also an attempt to discredit Katribu and scare off its supporters as they did in the 2010 elections in the light of our participation in the 2013 partylist elections,” Longid said.
The group also expressed concern for the safety and security of Enriquez and his family.
“Victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances have experienced similar vilification and harassment,” Longid pointed out. She demanded that the AFP and the Aquino government stop their harassment tactics against human rights advocates and for the military to withdraw the fake complaint against Enriquez.
“We will hold them accountable should any danger fall on the person of Enriguez and his family arising from these malicious suits,” she said.
Enriquez has previously declared support for the urban poor victims of police brutality in the violent demolition operations against the residents of Silverio Compound in Sucat, Paranaque. He has also spoken many times in various press conferences and gatherings exposing the plight of internal refugees and victims of human rights violations.
He said internal refugees naturally sympathize with residents of urban poor communities targeted by demolition.
“Here in the urban centers, there is forced eviction of urban poor dwellers in favour of ‘development’ as there is forced evacuation in the countryside, all in the name of ‘development’. The burden of the urban poor is the commercial projects under Aquino’s public-private partnership (PPP) schemes. Ours are the agri-business plantations and large-scale mining operations. They have to contend with police brutality; we have to stand against military combat operations,” said Enriquez.
Enriquez is also vocal against mining companies and their operations, specifically naming Taganito Mining Corporation in Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte and the San Roque Metals Incorporated in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte. He said that the operations of the two and other mining companies that went full-scale in Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur were being protected by the military.
“Mining has not only brought environmental destruction, mining is also the reason why there is rampant military combat operations in our areas. these operations lead to numerous and massive violations against the human rights of indigenous peoples,” he said.
“Mining operations and exploration activities are always accompanied by intense military combat operations. Indigenous peoples are forced to leave their communities and settle in evacuation centers. Military personnel from 30th and 38th IBPA and the 3rd Special Forces of the 402nd Brigade have been harping that their operations are geared towards peace and economic development, but the truth is they’re working to drive out and away indigenous peoples and their communities who are opposed to destructive mining projects.”
According to Genasque, military operations and large scale mining projects disrupted the efforts of indigenous peoples to better their situation and themselves.
“The twin evils of development aggression and militarization have always derailed our peaceful way of living. It destroys our rich culture, tradition and our socio-economic foundation which is rooted in our ancestral land,” he said.