5 foreigners on fact-finding mission held in South Cotabato
KORONADAL CITY—Authorities stopped at a checkpoint a group of foreign activists who were on a mission to look into the recently reported massacre of nine civilians in Lake Sebu town in South Cotabato province.
South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes told reporters Thursday that the foreign activists, Julie Jamora, Dina Anderson, Jamy Drapeza, Adam Shaw and Tawanda Chandiwana, all members of the Gabriela Network USA Chapter, were on board a truck when they were stopped by police around 8 a.m. at a checkpoint in BArangay (village) Palian in Tupi town, South Cotabato due to alleged lack of identification and travel documents.
Fuentes said they came from Lake Sebu and were held briefly for questioning.
“Some of them were not able to present identification cards and passports so they were brought to the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Bureau of Immigration,” Fuentes said.
The said offices were in General Santos City.
Citing a report from South Cotabato police commander Senior Supt. Nestor Salcedo, Fuentes said the foreigners even claimed to be journalists but their affiliations were not immediately known.
She said the foreigners were released after their papers had been verified by Immigration officials.
Arlyn Perez, coordinator of the Kalumahin Federation of Indigenous Peoples, protested the brief detention of the members of the fact-finding mission, saying there was an alleged connivance between military and provincial officials, an allegation denied by the governor.
Perez said the team were investigating the deaths of nine indigenous people in December last year in Lake Sebu.
“They (police) were just doing their job. If they have proper identification and travel documents, they will not be held,” Fuentes said.
On December 3 last year, soldiers reportedly encountered about 25 members of the New People’s Army in the village of Ned in Lake Sebu, leaving two soldiers and nine alleged NPA members dead. This was what the fact-finding mission was investigating.
The governor said they expected the fact-finding mission report to be “biased” as they only focus on their own version.
Jerome Aba, spokesperson of Suara Bangsamoro, said the foreign delegation was told they were being held on suspicion of being Islamic State members.
“The three Filipino-Americans, one American and one Zimbabwe national are among the delegates invited by the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines investigating the impact of Duterte’s Martial Law in Mindanao. The contingent went to Lake Sebu to probe the December 3 massacre of Dulangan Manobos, including tribal leader Victor Danyan, who defended their ancestral land from Consunji and Nestle plantation collaboration project,” Aba said.