By Aldwin Quitasol
BANGUED, Abra – Nationwide human rights and cause-oriented groups urged President Aquino to probe massacre of the Ligiw family allegedly by military men even as the Abra provincial board, which tabled the issue for deliberation did not do so for lack of quorum Monday.
They also urged the President, as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Gen. Felix Brawner, commanding officer of the 5th Infantry Division, wherein 41st Infantry Battalion belongs.to initiate the pull-out.
Over 80 human rights workers nationwide trooped to this province last week to show solidarity and help the Ligiw family in their fight for justice for the brutal killing of their kin allegedly by government soldiers deployed in Baay-Licuan.
They pressed for total pullout of military troops from the province particularly Baa-Licuan where people are reportedly now “living in a state of fear due to military presence.
The victims of yet the worst human rights violations this March were Ama Licuben Ligiw, 70, and his sons Eddie, 42 and Fermin, 30 were brutally killed and found buried in a shallow grave.
Human rights workers said the Ligiws went missing since March 3, their grave was found on March 7 and their bodies were recovered March 8.
The victims were residents of sitio Sucao, Domenglay village in Licuan-Baay.
On March 26, the Ligiw siblings Edna, Jessie and Edwin filed extrajudicial killing complaints against the 41st IBPA for the murder of their father and brothers at the Commission on Human Rights Cordillera.
The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance reported they were scheduled to meet one of the victims, Freddie in Bangued on March 4 to interview him on his experience when army men coerced him to serve as guide during their operation on Feb. 22.
Fermin's relatives disclosed they learned from the victim that the soldiers accused him of aiding New People's Army guerillas and that the army instructed him not to go to Sucao, his home village.
Abigail Anongos, secretary general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance said the Ligiw family played a significant role in resisting entry of the Olympus Mining Company in Licuan-Baay and other large-scale mining interests in the area.
She added the three and the other immediate members of the Ligiw family were members and leaders of Baay Licuan Takderan Umno a Karbengan (BALITOK), Kakailian Salakniban tay Amin a Nagtaudan (KASTAN), the provincial chapter of CPA.
Anongos said “these organizations have long been under attack by the AFP’s political vilification campaign labeling them as enemies of the State”.
Audrey Beltran, CHRA deputy secretary general said the death of the Ligiws caused fear in the province, especially in communities where the 41st IBPA operates.
She added Licuan-Baay and its neighboring municipalities remain heavily militarized.
“The people fear for their security and lives when going to their pacalso (temporary hut used as shelter for farmers and small-scale miners), their small scale mines or swidden farms and thus could not fully tend to their livelihood,” she said.
Beltran said harassment and other human rights violations persist in the community with the continuing presence of the military.
She said an impartial investigation of the case was not being done and there were even efforts to whitewash it.
She added human rights workers in the province especially members and leaders of the Abra Human Rights Movement (ARHM) have been subjected to harassment as they assisted the Ligiw family and documented human rights violations.
“These are the compelling reasons why the presence of the wider community working for human rights and justice need to be concretely be felt in the communities affected by the operations of the 41st IBPA and the 503rd Brigade,” Beltran said.
This, as human rights advocates and members of various organizations as well as individuals stated that “The presence of the elements of the 41st Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) gives the indigenous people of Barangay Dominglay to an atmosphere of insecurity and fear as they are already being prevented from living normally as they did before.”
This was the main finding of the National Solidarity Mission which was participated by 20 organizations done on April 4-7 barely a month after the bodies of the Ligiws were found in a shallow grave near their pacalso (resting hut) in Sitio Sucao, of the said barangay. The three members of the Ligiw family went missing on March 3. Their bodies bore torture marks.
Surviving members of the Ligiw family and their relatives pointed to the 41st IBPA as perpetrators of the brutal murder.
The NSM was held on Sitio Sucao, Domenglay Poblacion, Sitio Mugao of Barangay Dominglay, Licuan Baay; Sitio Manapnap, Barangay Binasaran, Malibcong and Poblacion of Lacub. Participants to the NSM observed that the areas they visited are heavily militarized. They found out that the Bravo Company of the 41st IBPA was even housed at the vicinity of Dominglay Barangay Captain Josephine Cario in SitioSucao.
According to Cario, the soldiers headed by Lt. Mark de los Santos prior to their stay in the vicinity of her residence wrote her a letter and asked permission to encamp in her abode. She said they offered their “bayanihan service” to construct a pathway.
Delegates of the NSM held a solidarity program with the community members of Sitio Sucao and other people coming from the neighboring areas with the presence of some soldiers of the 41st IBPA.
They noted the soldiers were not wearing proper uniforms especially their commanding officer de los Santos while going to such public activities.
The mission also reported disrespect and hostility the delegates of soldiers towards them and the people who attended the gathering.
Maria Sol Taule of KARAPATAN (National Human Rights Alliance) said soldiers blatantly intimidated community people and the NSM delegates by taking pictures and videos.
She said army troopers led by de los Santos even entered the church where the people held a mass to harass them.
They hit the attitude of the commanding officer in challenging the community people especially the surviving Ligiw family members to a sapata (an indigenous practice of settling cases or feuds within the indigenous community) to find justice in the killing of the their three kins.
The delegates listed human rights violations in the areas where the 41st IBPA was operating.
They reported such cases like sexual abuse among women and children with several cases of abandoned children from soldier-fathers; violations of children’s rights, particularly, cases of threats and intimidations from elements of the 41st IBPA; intensified harassment, threat and intimidation especially those participating in activities organized under Kakailian, Salakniban Ta'y Amin (KASTAN), Abra Human Rights Alliance and Cordillera Human Rights Alliance. Of note is the systematic insinuation of officers of the 41st IB to the effect that the massacre of the Ligiws is perpetrated by KASTAN. Arsenio Ligiw who is the most vocal member of the Ligiw clan is persistently being associated with KASTAN; and encampments in houses and within residential areas during military combat operations under the pretext of “bayanihan.”
Meanwhile, the national formation of IP organizations criticized the administration because of the killings and HRVs against IP communities.
Kakai Tolentino of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (National Alliance of Indigenous Filipinos or KAMP) said that they will not just let go the Ligiw massacre case that happened under the present administration of President Aquino.
They said encampment of the 41st IBPA within civilian facilities endangers the populace, and is a violation of Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Human Rights Law (CARHRIHL) and Republic Act 7610 and makes the women and children more vulnerable to violations. RA 7610 is the “Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act”.
ITOGON, Benguet – A resident of Bokod town working in Australia and a staffer of a non-government organization were buried last week after they were killed and five others were seriously injured when the van they were riding plunged into a 100-meter ravine here afternoon of April 5.
Police identified the fatalities as Reynaldo Santos Paz, 63, and Thita Edio Saguid, 38, who worked for the NGO Igorota Foundation Inc.
Rescued from the wreckage of the ill-fated Toyota Hilux were Eunice Dangpas Blas, 47, and Cyrilo Cosalan Blas, 55, who both work in Canada; Aris Dangpas Blas, 26, a driver of the Bokod municipal government; Carmela Edio Paz, 44, who works in Australia; and Mika Eido Rufino, 17, a sophomore at the Saint Louis University in Baguio City.
Senior Supt. Rodolfo Azurin, Benguet police director, said police got a call from a concerned citizen about the mishap at around 4:30 p.m. that day, prompting immediate rescue and retrieval operation in Sitio Camisong, Barangay Loacan in this town.
The van’s driver was reportedly negotiating an ascending curved portion of the road when the vehicle overshot toward the right and fell off the cliff.
BAGUIO CITY –Charges were filed Thursday against the suspect in the massacre of five persons, including three children here along Kayang Road market area April 6.
Suspect Philip Tolentino Avino, 31, is now at the city jail after he was brought back from Manila where he surrendered Tuesday evening to vice mayor Isko Moreno.
This, as the medico-legal officer who checked Avino said Thursday he bore seven wounds in the hands.
Dr. Rodrigo Leal, medico-legal officer of the Cordillera Regional Crime Laboratory service, told the media: “He (Avino) had wounds on the hand, four on the right hand and three on the left. These injuries are significant because there are also blood spots seen on the scene of the crime.”
He said blood spots found at the massacre scene will undergo DNA testing to establish if those would match the blood stains on the suspect.
Avino, despite his surrender, denied the crime, saying he was on his way to Metro Manila when the massacre happened.
Baguio police director Senior Supt. Rolando Miranda earlier said Avino was identified by two witnesses who saw him knocking on the door of the apartment where the massacre of five people happened on April 6.
The short pants obtained at the crime scene was likewise identified by the former girlfriend of Avino who claimed she gave it to him as a gift.
Five victims, Jacqueline Nociete,19, his brother Joey,9; Jonalyn lozano,32,housemaid; Dave de Guzman,7 and Raymund del Mundo,9, were brutally killed in the apartment here at at Hilltop market, Kayang.
The victims sustained multiple stab wounds on different parts of their bodies that led to their death.
Baguio mayor Mauricio Domogan earlier offered P100,000 bounty for informants who could lead lawmen to arrest of Avino, a.k.a. “Michael Geronimo,” market porter, from Sta. Mesa, Manila.
Avino reportedly earlier approached his brother and an aunt to arrange his surrender to Moreno.
In Manila, Avino, denied allegation he was behind the killing insisting he was aboard a bus that day going to Pasay City, claiming he was framed up for the crime.
Baguio police said they hoped Avino would cooperate in the investigation for the early resolution of the case.
Miranda said Avino, was identified by a key witness, an employee in the eatery owned by the apartment owner, who was also a former live-in partner of the alleged suspect.
Victims were found dead, with blood splattered on the floor of their apartment fourth floor of Chan Building, 3rd Kayang Street in Barangay Kayang, Hilltop by Vilma Nociete, mother of two victims.
Victim Jackelyn Kale Marquez Nociete, 19, Saint Louis University student, was stabbed 18 times..
Jackelyn Kale, with her nine-year-old brother Joey Marquez Nociete Jr., had 14 stab wounds.
Their house help, Jonalyn Lozano, had 12 stab wounds.
Pronounced dead on arrival at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center were playmates of nine-year-old boy Joey who were identified as Dave John de Guzman and Raymond Del Mundo, both 8.
Dave John had eight stab wounds, while Raymond had five.
Investigation revealed apartment lessee, Vilma, mother of two victims, received a text message from Jackelyn Kale around 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., informing her they had a visitor looking for their father, Joey Nociete Sr.
When Vilma tried calling back her daughter to ask about the person looking for her husband, nobody was answering the phone, prompting her to go back to their rented unit.
At their rented unit, Vilma knocked several times at the door and tried calling the cellphone of her daughter to no avail.
Worried, she decided to ask the building owner for the duplicate key of the unit.
Upon entering the apartment together with another companion, she saw her house helper Lozano bloodied and lifeless on the floor together with two playmates of her son who were also unconsciously lying in their pool of blood.
Vilma said she shouted for help until neighbors came to rush the victims to the BGHMC.
All victims were pronounced dead on arrival due to multiple stab wounds and loss of blood.
Miranda said they identified the suspect after material and testimonial evidences, including statements from a key witness who was a cook at the eatery of the victim’s family.
He said a shirt recovered in the apartment and other pieces of evidence also pointed to Avino as the person responsible for the crime, adding the suspect changed his bloodied shirt and short pants he allegedly left at the crime scene.
Neighbors of the victims claimed the shirt left at the crime scene was that of the then still unidentified man who was knocking at the Nociete’s door afternoon of April 6.
Police said Avino could have entered the apartment around 3:30 to 6:30 pm.
Miranda said the suspect could have been known to the family, as no sign of forcible entry was in crime scene.
According to Miranda, the key witness said she was able to identify the bloodied shorts and belt recovered from the crime scene as that of her former live-in partner's.
The police chief said the key witness was taken in as a cook at the family’s eatery and was adopted as part the Nociete family after she separated from the suspect.
“The witness was the main target of the suspect as he was not amenable to their break-up,” he added.
Based on intelligence reports, the suspect was seen in Cubao, Quezon City and in Malolos, Bulacan.
He added suspect could have been under influence of prohibited drugs when he committed the crime.
Miranda earlier said anybody who has information about the suspect's whereabouts can contact his number at 09178281990, adding that a police manhunt is ongoing.
The victims were rushed to the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center where they were declared dead on arrival by Dr. Laoagan Rajiv.
The waitress, who requested that she not be named, identified the suspect through the bloodied short pants and belt he left at the crime scene.
She said that the belt was a gift from her. She added they broke up April 4.
There was no sign of forced entry, according to Senior Insp. Angeline Amangan.
Amangan said the bodies were already rushed to the hospital when they arrived at the crime scene. She said there were signs of struggle. The murder weapon was not recovered.
Although police have not ruled out other motives in the crime like robbery, Amangan said some valuables were left behind, including a computer tablet.
A witness, Mae Dumpit Fernandez, who lives on the fifth floor, said she saw a man knocking at the unit of the victims around 3:30 p.m.
Fernandez described the man as five-foot-three, slim, of dark complexion, and wearing a green sweat shirt and black short pants.
She thought the man was just visiting.
The bodies were taken to Funeraria Paz Monday, while relatives of the two late siblings were taken to Naguillian, La Union.
Meanwhile, Domogan said he was alarmed on increasing heinous crimes in the city the past weeks.
He added crimes against properties and persons escalated the past month.
Domogan said heinous crimes, such as recent shooting incident involving a taxi driver and massacre involving the Noceiete family, do not usually happen in the city.
Miranda, however, downplayed this, saying there was decrease in the city’s crime rate the past month compared to the previous months before he assumed office.
LINGAYEN, Pangasinan – The campaign against illegal drugs and other crimes in this province is gaining ground with bigger number of arrested drug personalities and wanted persons, according to law enforcement officials.
Senior Supt. Sterling Blanco, provincial police director said just recently, a total 35 operations were conducted, resulting in arrest of 48 persons and confiscation of 79.79 grams of shabu worth P518.245 and 140.302 grams of dried marijuana leaves worth P10,522.
He said 46 cases have been filed in courts for illegal drugs against suspects.
Blanco said the provincial police command’s campaign in reducing distribution of marijuana and shabu in Pangasinan was boosted by running after distributors here and reducing supply and demand.
A veteran intelligence officer and recipient of awards, Blanco said once the supply of illegal drugs here is lessened this will mean reduction of users since they cannot buy illegal drugs anymore.
In year 2013, under the term of Senior Supt. Marlou Chan, where two electoral events were held, Pangasinan police accomplished 35% more operations and 65% more arrests compared to 2012.
Now chief of police directorial regional staff based in in Camp Gen. Florendo, La Union, Chan said year 2012 was a period of normal police operations and even 2014, compared to 2013, “yet Pangasinan was included in 15 areas of concern. We still accomplished that much in anti-drugs operations and the biggest haul so far in January 2013 operations.”
In other police operations, Chan said Pangasinan office was awarded with most number of guns confiscated with two other major awards (arrest of most wanted persons) for exemplary performance in 2013 elections.
Blanco meanwhile said he launched information drive activities in elementary and secondary schools which students, teachers, barangay officials and members of non-government organizations had attended.
By Joana Marie Bayeng and Justina Nadiahan
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – A drunk driver, who was with his 8-year-old son, rammed his ‘devil truck’ at several vehicles here along km 4 the Halsema Highway around 10:30 a.m. Thursday that resulted to heavy traffic and wounding of eight persons.
Police said an Isuzu cargo truck with plate number RAH 519 driven by Rogelio Lunggos Saludes, 32, of km.4 Barangay Balili here came from km.5 headed to Baguio City.
The truck crossed to the opposite lane, sideswiped the left side rear portion of a passenger jeep with license number AYS 151, hit the center rope, causing barriers to fall, the smashed the left side front portion of a Toyota Innova Wagon taxi going towards km.5.
The truck did not stop, instead it moved forward then sideswiped a Kawasaki motorcycle.
It still did not stop until it collided head on against another passenger jeep with plate number AYC 365.
The truck pushed the jeep southward and finally stopped.
The two jeeps, motorcycle, Innova taxi came from Baguio City were all headed to km.5 when the collisions happened.
Police identified wounded victims as: Candice Melis Fletcher, Graciano Sangalang De Guzman, Miream Poc-op Katamen, Rhea Oras Camas, Heron Bastian Gayaso, Mariano Jackson Bastian and Oliver Palongias Way-as, driver of the jeep with plate number AYC 365.
Also wounded were Divina Pulano Killia-en, and Gilbert Napiloy Gano.
The victims were rushed to Pines City Doctors Hospital while others were brought to Benguet General Hospital.
All the eight victims were all passengers, including the driver of the jeep (AYC 365).
Some victims were confined at Pines City Doctors Hospital while others were sent home by doctors of Benguet General Hospital after treatment of minor injuries.
Police detained Saludes at the La Trinidad jail while the owner of the Isuzu truck negotiated with involved parties for amicable settlement.
Charges were being prepared against the Saludes at press time who reportedly had in his possession bottles of gin at the time of the incident.
By Ramon Dacawi
BAGUIO CITY -- The unity and passion needed to flesh out autonomy for the Cordillera may yet be at hand as leaders of this upland region - including its seven congressional representatives - have set a region-wide summit on the issue of self-rule on April 30 at the Baguio City National High School.
The summit comes 27 years after ratification of the 1987 Constitution that provided for the creation of autonomous regions for the Cordillera and Muslim Mindanao to “accelerate (the) economic and social growth and development” of said regions which, despite their natural wealth, continue to lag behind the rest of the country.
It comes after two organic acts to establish self-rule were rejected in two plebiscites, reportedly mainly due to lack of understanding and appreciation of autonomy resulting from a weak and limited grassroots information campaign.
The April 30 powwow was forged during a meeting last March 11 among Cordillera congressional representatives with governors, mayors and members of the Regional Development Council who traveled to meet them at the House of Representatives.
In a meeting of the preparations committee last Tuesday, Baguio Rep. Nicasio Aliping explained the Cordillera solons agreed to come up with a new autonomy bill based on inputs during the whole-day summit.
Aliping said the solons will set up a committee to help them draft the new measure which will also be based on House Bill 5595 which was filed during the previous Congress and earlier documents.
In preparation for the summit and as agreed during the consultation with the Cordillera solons, provincial, city and other local consultations are continuing, according to regional director Milagros Rimando of the National Economic and Development Authority.
The promise of active engagement of most or all of the Cordillera representatives during and after the summit – especially their eventual drafting and filing of a new organic act – has boosted hopes for warming up the national government’s support to the constitutional mandate for autonomy in the region.
“Cordillerans led by its officials have to deliver one message to the national government that we want autonomy,” city mayor Mauricio Domogan, who will host the summit with Rep. Aliping, noted recently. “To be united is the only way we can drive home the point and for us to be heard.”
Domogan feels that Malacanang is not receptive to the push for Cordillera autonomy as it would mean devolution of some of its key powers and function and additional fund provisions called for under an autonomous region set-up.
In a recent forum here, former provincial planning and development officer Bial Palaez of Benguet also stressed that the key to achieving autonomy is for the region’s leaders to spearhead the push. He said that while he and others worked for approval of the first autonomy bill, it was rejected in Benguet because the key leaders of the province were campaigned against it.
The mayor, who has been pushing the quest for self-rule in numerous forums, maintained that the drive must done peacefully, unlike the forging of a Bangsamoro region in Mindanao which was marked by violence and war.
“Getting into war may appear to be an effective means to get the needed attention from the government, bur let us make a difference and show them that we can attain our autonomy goal through peaceful means even if it will take us a long time to do it,” the mayor said.
The mayor headed the committee mandated by the Regional Development Council that crafted the draft of the third organic act for Cordillera autonomy which became HP 5595 and Senate Bill 3115.
CABANATUAN CITY – The ouster of the president of a Methodist-run university here almost two years ago was illegal and unjustified, according to the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).
The NLRC thus ordered the immediate reinstatement of Manuel Palomo Sr. as president of the 68-year-old Wesleyan University Philippines (WUP), considered as the oldest private university in the province.
Palomo was unseated on March 11, 2012 in a resolution by the WUP’s board of trustees. It was affirmed on the same day by the United Methodist Church’s College of Bishops (UMC-COB), which selects the university president and members of the board of trustees.
In a 28-page decision signed by NLRC Region 3 labor arbiter Mariano Bactin, the commission also ordered the WUP board of trustees and the COB to indemnify Palomo with P8.544 million in back wages; actual, moral and exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees. Palomo was represented in the labor suit by lawyer Valentino Alberto.
Reacting to the NLRC decision, Palomo said he felt vindicated. “There is no winner or loser in this case as we all belong to the UMC. I sought the intervention of the NLRC because of the absence of any mediation and reconciliation efforts. I looked for avenues to right a wrong – that I was indeed illegally dismissed,” said Palomo, whose term was to expire this April 30.
“I don’t want my grandchildren to live with the thought that their grandfather did something wrong,” he said.
In a one-page notice of decision issued by labor arbitration associate Reynaldo Martin, the NLRC said the ruling shall be immediately executory even pending appeal and the WUP is directed to submit a report of compliance within 10 calendar days from receipt of the decision.
Posting of a bond by the WUP in case it intends to question the NLRC ruling shall not stay the execution for reinstatement, according to the notice.