CAGAYAN DE ORO

Rights advocate refuses invitation by military

A WORKER of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and former radio station manager in Northern Mindanao expressed worry after she refused an invitation without warrant from the military over her alleged "knowledge with the left group."

Former RMP's Radyo Lumad station manager, Kristin Lim, said she worries about facing cases based on "trumped-up charges" because she refused to go with the military.

But the military, under the Special Forces, said there was nothing wrong with the invitation to clarify certain things.

Radyo Lumad was an RMP-ran project that focused on reporting Indigenous People's issues. Lim said the project ended last March, but the staff was regularly subjected to threats and harassment.

Lim was among the human rights workers tagged as a supporter of the New People's Army (NPA).

"My worry is that, since I did not go with them and that I am already red tagged, they might file cases based on trumped up charges," Lim said.

"As a citizen I do not feel safe when forced to do things that clearly violates my liberties, because I was never informed of the nature of the invitation. Nor did they clarify the "questions" the soldiers wish to inquire on my person," she added.

Lim said around eight fully-armed soldiers onboard a military truck arrived at her house in Damilag, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon around 8 p.m. Saturday, August 3. Four more soldiers in civilian attire got off from a pick-up truck and invited her to the military camp.

She said a certain First Lieutenant Baquial introduced themselves as members of the First Special Forces based in Mampayag, Manolo Fortich. They told her that their battalion commander wanted to talk to her about her alleged "knowledge of the left."

But she did not oblige and told the soldiers that she would only face them for a dialogue with the presence of a legal counsel.

Follow-up

The military came back the following day and brought members of the barangay council to convince her to go with them in the military camp.

Again, Lim stood her ground and insisted that she would not go with the military since there were no legal documents presented compelling her to do so.

The village chief, she said, told the soldiers that the barangay council could summon her anytime for a dialogue with the military at the barangay hall.

"This is a tough time for me and my family. I already told them that I am open to talks but not in a way that I would have no peace of mind. I respect the invitation, but I would also like to insist, as I repeatedly did, that I am not a criminal. I courteously declined their invitation due to current personal engagements as a private citizen," Lim said.

"Rest assured I am not a threat to the security of our country. If I did have previous engagements with progressive organizations, I firmly stand with the principles of our right to organize or seek redress of grievances. If the government finds these rights a threat to our security and activists, or community development workers as enemies of the state, then there is certainly something wrong with how they perceive martial law," she added.

Military's response

First SF's battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Sergio Macarandan Jr., said there was nothing wrong with the government's invitation to clarify things.

He said the village chief was also informed that there was no ill-motive on the invitation.

"Common sense dictates that that if you have nothing to hide, why be afraid and defensive? May mga katanungan lang kaming gustong malaman," he said.

"Andun naman ang barangay captain to witness everything. Kung may mga lihim kang tinatago, siguro you have reason to be afraid of," Macarandan told SunStar Cagayan de Oro in a text message.

"If they really want to help the government keep peace and order, why not cooperate? We are just performing our duty as defenders of the oppressed. If she wants face-to-face with our resource persons and friends, pwede rin sila magtapatan," he added.

'Harassment'

But the RMP-Northern Mindanao said in a statement that this was another harassment to their worker.

"This is the same tactic that was used during the capture of Gloria Jandayan and Gleceria Balangiao when they were invited for questioning by the same Special Force Battalion. Jandayan was released but not Balangiao. Both were presented as fake surenderees," RMP-NMR said in a statement.

"Kristin Lim was the station manager of Radyo Lumad under the RMP-NMR. This is clearly the result of red-tagging. She is included in the long list of red-tagged individuals on a flyer distributed last February 26 at a hotel in Cagayan de Oro City," it added.


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