Rights group blames paramilitary, private guards for disappearance of Lumad activist

(Photo from Karapatan website)
(Photo from Karapatan website)

“We demand from the BS Aquino government to immediately surface John Calaba.”

By DEE AYROSO
Bulatlat.com

The human rights group, Families of the Disappeared for Justice or Desaparecidos is blaming paramilitary men and guards of a private company in Sultan Kudarat province for the disappearance of a Lumad anti-logging activist two weeks ago.

John Calaba, 28, the public information officer of the Manobo group, Kisasabanay Dulangan Manobo (Kiduma), had been missing since April 30 and is feared dead. He was last seen inside the compound of the David M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI) in Sabanal village, Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat.

“We demand from the BS Aquino government to immediately surface John Calaba,” said Lorena Santos, Desaparecidos secretary general. Santos added that members of the paramilitary group Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA) and the Consunji guards should be held accountable for his disappearance.

Santos said that in the morning of his disappearance, Calaba was at his house in Salangsang village, in Lebak town, when three DMCI company guards arrived. The guards, Christopher dela Cruz, Loloy Aquino and Jayjay Cruz, invited Calaba to their outpost in Sabanal village, Kalamansig, to eat roasted chicken with them. DMCI guards have persistently tried to befriend Calaba, said Santos.

Timoteo Asong, a worker at the water reservoir owned by the Consunji Company saw Calaba at the outpost eating, and the latter even invited Asong to eat with them. After 20 minutes, Asong heard gunshots from the outpost, and the sporadic firing lasted until around 10 a.m.

As villagers rushed to the outpost, the guards told them to go back home so as not to be caught in the crossfire with their “enemies.” At around 10:30 a.m., after the firing ceased, resident Marcial Usong saw six company guards loading something wrapped in canvass into an elf truck. The truck left a trail of blood.

Santos said the villagers doubted if the guards had an actual fire fight with their “enemies.”

Calaba’s group Kiduma had actively protested the mining and logging activities of the DMCI in their community.

The Martial Law-era SCAA was revived by the Arroyo administration as “investment defense forces,” especially for the protection of mining companies. They serve as Consunji’s company guards, and are trained by the Philippine Army’s 38th Infantry Battalion, Santos said. ()

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