Cebu City—The premier human rights umbrella here condemned the illegal arrest and detention of four of its volunteer investigators in Sta.Catalina, Negros Oriental by elements of Alpha Compnay-79th Infantry Battalion (IB) last Wednesday evening for trying to bring to the town center a resident earlier shot that day by elements of the 1st Scout Rangers Battalion (SRB).
It lashed out at the “militarist callousness” of the soldiers who held the human rights investigators, the wounded resident and his mother, and some 11 neighbors out in the cold for at least 30 minutes along a barangay road of Nagbinlod, Sta Catalina.
The soldiers, led by a Sgt. Corpus, released nine of the local farmers later, but brought the rest to the municipal police station.
At the police station, the victims were guarded by troops led by 1Lt. Tagle, while the wounded resident, named Marvin Villegas, and his mother were sped away by the soldiers towards Dumaguette City.
No charges was filed against the victims as of Saturday (19 March) afternoon, even as the soldiers accused them of being with suspected New People’s Army forces encountered by the 1st SRB Wednesday.
The victims were part of the Human Rights Monitoring Team of KARAPATAN-CV tasked to observe the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF). They have been documenting cases of human rights violations in militarized areas of Sta. Catalina since February 15, 2011, the start of the first round of peace negotiations between the government and the NDF.
“This latest travesty by government forces of the rules of war underscores the need for stronger measures that will compel them to abide by human rights agreements, particularly in sparing civilians and human rights advocates from being targeted during their operations”, said Rev. Ray Gelloagan, chairperson of KARAPATAN-CV.
“It is gravely disturbing and totally unjustifiable that a local farmer was shot by the soldiers and our volunteers were illegally arrested and detained for helping him be brought to a hospital,” he added.
KARAPATAN-CV has already sent out a Rapid Response Team to Sta. Catalina to recover the four human rights investigators, ascertain the status of Marvin Villegas, and verify the situation the affected barangay.ÿ