CHR probes alleged abduction of IP rights advocates
October 10, 2023 | 9:40am
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights announced Tuesday that it is currently looking into the alleged abduction of three advocates for indigenous peoples’ rights by the military.
In a statement, the CHR said its office in MIMAROPA has deployed a team to conduct an investigation into the reported abduction of Alia Encela (19), Job Abednego David (29) and Jimby del Monte (29).
According to rights groups Karapatan and Katribu, the three advocates were taken by the 4th Infantry Battalion and 203rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine military. They were last seen on September 19 in Barangay Lisap in Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro.
Encela, David and del Monte were investigating human rights violations related to increased militarization and bombings in indigenous communities in the province when they were allegedly abducted.
“CHR has the duty to investigate any suspected case of enforced or involuntary disappearance as part of our mandate to protect individuals from grave violations, especially when such persons are allegedly put into circumstances that place them outside the protection of law,” the commission said.
It stressed the need to strongly implement the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, which punishes arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of liberty, such as illegal arrest, detention, or abduction.
Karapatan documented eight cases of enforced disappearances during the first year of the Marcos Jr. administration.
Military: Activists arrested
The three advocates were found to be in custody of the 203rd Infantry Battalion.
The Philippine Army denied that there was no enforced disappearance, and said that Encela, David and Del Monte were arrested during an operation.
Brigadier Gen Randolph Cabangbang, commander of the 203rd Infantry Battalion, accused them of being members of the New People’s Army. He also alleged that improvised landmines and grenades were found in the bags of the activists.
“At the same time, CHR reiterates its consistent objection and condemnation on the use of illegal weapons or any improvised explosive device. We maintain that no ideology, cause or advocacy can justify the carrying and usage of illegal weapons,” the commission said.
“As we conduct our objective probe on this case, CHR calls for transparency and cooperation from all parties involved,” it added.
Last month, environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano accused the military of abduction, countering the government’s claim that they voluntarily surrendered to authorities.