Recent trumped-up charges in Southern Mindanao against farmers decried


VICTIMS SPEAK OUT Angelito Chavez (holding microphone) speaks before the media in a press conference organized by Karapatan-SMR today, January 19. On Chavez’s right is Renante Mantos, co-accused in the latest trumped-up charges against progressive leaders denouncing militarization in the countryside. Chavez and Mantos were accused of serious illegal detention of six individuals last January 6. Both men belied the charges, saying that their neighbors and co-workers could readily attest that they did not participate in the abduction. Along with them are other victims and family of the victims of trumped-up charges in the province of Compostela Valley. (Photo by Hanimay Suazo, caption by Kiko Martinez, Karapatan-SMR)

DAVAO CITY- Human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao decried the first cases of trumped-up charges filed against a farmer activists who were vocal against military presence in their town of Maco, Compostela Valley.

Charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention against Reynante Mantos, Angelito Chavez, and Allan Montecalvo, all residents of Brgy. Malamodao, Municipality of Maco, Compostela Valley Province.

Six complainants were identified by media reports claiming that Mantos and his companions are all members of New People’s Army (NPA) in the area, a claim that Karapatan refutes.

“The victims of this new round of trumped-up charges are all known as human rights defenders. They have publicly participated in street protests, mass gatherings and media exposures against the military presence in their municipality and in the province,” said Karapatan SMR Secretary General Hanimay Suazo.

Reynante Mantos is the current chairperson of Hugpong sa mga Mag-uuma sa Walog Compostela (HUMAWAC), an affiliate of a peasant organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) in southern Mindanao. While Angelito Chavez is an active member of HUMAWAC and Allan Montecalvo is the spokesperson of Indug Kautawan (People Rise Up), organization of environmental defenders in Compostela Valley.

“Mantos has been attending mass actions calling for the removal of AFP troops in civilian communities in the province of Compostela Valley. More importantly, he was a participant in last year’s Manilakbayan ng Mindanao in support of Lumad’s cause,” Suazo said.

Suazo questions the motive of the complainants, as she identified one of the complainant, Aina Grace Ombilayan, is in a relationship with a soldier of the 71st Infantry Battalion deployed in Maco.

She said the charges against Mantos, Chavez and Montecalvo “are not isolated cases.  The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through the 10th Infantry Division, Philippine Army has been specializing in filing trumped-up charges and their legal offensives against community human rights defenders.”

Karapatan SMR noted they have documented 63 trumped-up cases against activists and human rights defenders in Davao Region.

“This is part of the special grand design of the counter-insurgency Oplan Bayanihan of the AFP-BS Aquino administration through their whole of the nation initiative (WNI) and social pressure tactics by using the government agencies through the police, prosecutor’s office, and the courts to repress human rights defenders and quell people’s resistance”, said Suazo.