SF CHRP (San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines) is a San Francisco based human rights advocacy group. Latest news and views on human rights in the Philippines.
A Karapatan investigation has uncovered more details about the killing of 23-year-old indigenous leader Genesis Ambason. On September 13th at around 8 PM in Agusan del Sur, Mindanao Ambason was ambushed, taken capture, and killed by seven members of a CAFGU unit under the direction of the 26th Infantry Brigade (IB) and also by three members of the 26th IB. Six of the seven CAFGU unit members have been identified (a CAFGU is a locally placed and armed militia under the direction of the AFP and as well as prominent politicians and land lords). In a press release Karapatan stated:
According to the report sent to Karapatan, Almira, Saguitan’s wife who is eight months pregnant with their first child, “wept while cleaning his husband’s body” when she saw the two gunshot wounds in his right chest and another two gunshot wounds in the hip area, near his spine. His face and chest were covered with bruises. Ambason’s teeth are all gone. His head was deformed, and his face unrecognizable because of the bruises due to heavy beating.
Palabay said that the brutality of Saguitan’s death is “reminiscent of how Fr. Tullo Favali, PIME was killed by paramilitary forces in 1985, under the Marcos dictatorship. In 2011, the same paramilitary forces killed another PIME priest, Fr. Pops Tentorio.”
The report indicated that, prior to the incident, Saguitan and four others were on their way to Sitio Tambo, Brgy. Binikilan to mine and buy gold. He had with him 18,000 pesos in cash. They were riding a motorcycle but decided to hike uphill when the motorcycle broke down. Some 200 meters away from Sitio Tambo, Ambason and his group decided to rest as they were already exhausted from hiking. From where they rested, they could see the detachment of the 26th IB; and those at the detachment could also see them.
A series of shots fired also came from the direction of the detachment. Ambason’s companions ran to different direction toward the forest, leaving behind Ambason, who could no longer move because of gunshot wound. That was the last time he was seen alive. His wife would later find out that the PhP18,00 he was carrying was lost.
Ambason was active in the anti-mining campaign in the area of San Luis. The CAFGU, according to the residents in the community, were deployed in the area because of the anti-mining campaign. Ambason was also involved in the anti-militarization campaign which he believed has brought about a string of human rights violations among his fellow Lumad.
In a report for Bulatlat Inna Alleco R. Silverio wrote:
During the Macapagal-Arroyo regime, the military accused Tagdumahan of being a front for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). On Sept. 28, 2009, Tagdumahan’s chair, Aladino Badbaran or “Datu Mansubaybay”, 45, was ambushed with his pregnant wife in Balit village, San Luis. Datu Mansubaybay died while his wounded wife was able to escape.
The Katribu Indigenous Peoples’ Partylist also expressed its indignation over Ambason’s killing, saying that he was the 17th indigenous peoples’ leader killed under the Aquino administration and the second leader of Tagdumahan after the killing of Badbaran in 2009.
According to Katribu, only last June 25, 2012, Ambason led Tagdumahan officers and village chiefs in a dialogue with the military’s 26th IB. In the said dialogue, Ambason and Tagdumahan with the aid of the Provincial Department of Social Welfare and Services (Provincial DSWD) successfully worked for the release of Tagdumahan members Noel Canhatan, 22, Rogelio Gallino 25, Jacquilo Gumansil 21, Jojo Gomez (age unidentified), Jemar Matibulig (age unidentified), and Maymay Matibulig (age unidentified). The military unlawfully detained them on June 22, 2012 on trumped-up charges.
“Obviously, this caught the ire of the military and the Cafgu. Katribu believes that Genesis’ killing was in revenge against his consistent human rights work for the Banwaons,” the group said.