B’laan tribe chieftain, son tortured and killed in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur

HUMAN RIGHTS advocates Wednesday called on the government to create an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights to look into the extrajudicial killing of  B’laan tribe chieftain and his son in Sta. Cruz, Province of Davao del Sur last February 27, 2011.

Human rights group Karapatan identified the victims of summary execution as  Rudy Dejos, farmer, 50 years old, chieftain of B’laan tribe and vice-chairperson, Zone-1 Farmers Association (ZOFA) – an affiliate of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and his son Rody Rick ,farmer, 26 years old , also a member of ZOFA. The alleged perpetrators  are undetermined number of unidentified men believed to be elements of the 39th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (39th IBPA).

Account of the incident

In the morning of February 27, Rudy and Rody Rick Dejos were working on their respective farms near their residence in the village of Zone 1, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur. Rudy’s wife, Mercy, left for the village market to sell their crops.

When Mercy returned home at around 4:00 in the afterment, she found her husband’s and son’s lifeless bodies, bathed in blood . The bodies bore gunshot and stab wounds. There were also signs of possible torture as there were bruises on the bodies, and the victims’ hands and nails were smashed, according to reports reaching Karapatan.

Mercy thinks that her husband and son were killed around noon because the bodies were already cold and stiff, and the food for lunch that Rudy prepared was left untouched. She  believes that Rudy and Rody Rick were killed by military elements as the two have experienced harassments from the military last year.

In June 2010, elements of the 39th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army set-up camp in the Barangay Hall in the center of Barangay Zone-1, Sta. Cruz, conducted village meetings (or “pulong-pulong”), and invited residents, including Rudy, to report to them and “clear” their names. A rebel returnee and a community organizer named Jojo told Rudy that the latter has been mistrusted in the village and that he should “clean” his name from the military’s record. The military have accused Rudy’s tribe as “a front of the underground movement” and the New People’s Army, and should be dismantled.  At that time, Rudy decided not to go to the Barangay Hall because he believed that, even though he wished to explain his side, he would not be believed by the military.

Rody Rick, on the other hand, was interrogated by a certain Boyong on June 6, 2010, outside Rudy’s home. He asked Rody Rick about his brother-in-law  and even aimed a gun at the latter’s head. Boyong, using a cellphone camera, also took Rody Rick’s picture without permission.

Also in December 2010, a certain Ka Arman, a leader of the Barangay Defense System1 in the village and a known military intelligence agent, threatened Rudy over the founding of the Zone-1 Farmers Association which is affiliated with the KMP.

The group called on the AFP to immediately leave the communities in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Norte, and to stop the labeling and targeting of human rights defenders and members of organizations as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”

They asked the Aquino government to withdraw its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which they claimed victimizes innnocent and unarmed civillians

The  group reminded the Philippine Government  that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.-D’Jay Lazaro

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