Contributed by Joe Montero
On 30 December last year, the Philippines police and military apprehended Tumandok indigenous leaders. They came at around four in the morning. The joint operation entered the villages of Tapaz, Capiz, and Calinog on Panay Island, in the central part of the Philippines.
Nine were tortured in their homes and then shot dead. A further sixteen were taken away.
The villages attacked were among the 17 villages that that are involved in an alliance opposed to the construction off the Jalaur Mega dam, because of the threat it poses to their livelihoods, culture, and spiritual existence.
South Korea’s Daewoo, E&S and the Korea Eximbank, are linked to the construction of this dam.
Photo by Carlo Manalansan: A few of the victims tortured and killed by the police and army operation
Ten men and six women were taken from their homes and fingerprints, firearms, and explosives were planted. This enabled serious charges and the denial of bail. The accused are still under custody and are accused of being leaders of the banned Communist Party of the Philippines or New People’s Army.
The claim by village members that these people do not own guns and are not members of an underground organisation has been ignored.
Photo from the Philippine police: allegedly planted evidence in victim’s home
On 8 February, family and friends of the victims will be marking 40 days since the massacre. Other gatherings, including in Australia, will also be taking place, to give support to the victims and the Tumandok people.
According to the human rights alliance in Panay, KARAPATAN, the massacres and arrests forced many other villagers to flee, for fear that the killings and arrests would continue. The villagers say they cannot return to their homes if the army remains in the area. Relief workers are concerned about the traumatisation of the children.
The Cardinal and bishops in Panay have denounced the killings and arrests and are assisting legal action to address this.
The International Independent Commission of Investigation of Human Rights Violations in the Philippines is including the Tumandok massacre in its first report, due to be tabled the UN Human rights Council in March.
Australia is a significant contributor of weapons to the military of the Philippines, as well as the training of personnel, at a cost of more than $43 billion so far.
Commemorations will take place in Sydney on 8 February outside the South Korean Consulate 44 Market Street (12.30 p.m.) and in Melbourne outside the Philippine Consulate 257 Collins Street (12 noon).