Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the alleged unjust abduction of three IP advocates in Oriental Mindoro

Statement of the Commission on Human Rights on the alleged unjust abduction of three IP advocates in Oriental Mindoro

Pursuant of our Constitutional mandate and other relevant laws, such as the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Region IV-B has deployed a team to conduct an independent investigation on the alleged unjust abduction of three indigenous people’s rights (IP) advocates, namely Alia Encela, 19; Job Abednego David, 29; Jimby del Monte, 29.

CHR monitored through reports from some groups that the young IP activists were allegedly taken by the 4th Infantry Battalion (IB) and 203rd IB in Sitio Malaglag, Barangay Lisap, Bongabong, Oriental Mindoro.

In a report from the Karapatan Southern Tagalog, the three IP advocates were allegedly last seen on 19 September 2023 in the aforementioned location. They were reportedly conducting a humanitarian investigation in relation to the alleged human rights violations caused by the bombing for a ‘test fire’ of 203rd IB in Mangyan communities as well as the destructive effects of mining and quarrying of Armour Rocks in the said area.

In a statement, the Philippine Army refuted the allegation and said that the three were arrested during a legitimate operation. They claimed that “there was no forced disappearance concerning the three because all protocols were followed throughout the operation.” BGen Randolph Cabangbang, commander of the 203rd Infantry Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, alleges that improvised landmines and grenades were found in the bags of the activists. He further claims that former communist rebels who have surrendered to the government have identified the three as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

CHR has the duty to investigate any suspected case of enforced or involuntary disappearance as part our mandate to protect individuals from grave violations, especially when such persons are allegedly put into circumstance that place them outside the protection of law. There is a need to strongly implement Republic Act No. 10353 or the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012, which punishes arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of liberty, such as illegal arrest, detention, or abduction. The right to life, liberty and security of all, regardless of political background, affiliations, and ideological beliefs, are fundamental rights that must be guaranteed by the State.

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 that can breach fundamental rights.

As we conduct our objective probe on this case, CHR calls for transparency and cooperation from all parties involved. We also continue to remind that only through inclusive dialogue and genuine understanding of those directly affected by issues can we build durable solutions that can address the root causes of conflict in IP communities. ###