By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA — Two months after 19-year-old Lumad youth Obello Bay-ao was shot by elements of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) in Talaingod, Davao Del Norte, his family and fellow lumad students have fled their ancestral lands. Since July this year, they have been in Manila to demand President Rodrigo Duterte to recall battalions of military troops in their homeland.
On Nov. 24, Obello’s parents Benjo and Genia, along with human rights lawyers group National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) and memberss of the Save Our Schools Network (SOS), trooped to the Department of Justice to file a criminal case against the perpetrators, Ben and Joven Salangani, members of CAFGU and paramilitary group ALAMARA in Compostella Valley.
Yet, in another unfortunate consequence of the bureaucratic process in the country, Bay-ao’s family faces a long wait in their quest for justice, as the DOJ said there was no prosecutor available for the day to accept the complaint. Lawyer Kathy Panguban, NUPL lawyer and lead counsel for Bay-ao’s case, said the case will still be subject to the review of the prosecutor assigned to special cases. The prosecutor will then decide if the department will proceed with the investigation of the complaint.
“We are challenging and hoping that DOJ will look into the complaint of Obello’s parents and consider the circumstances the family is facing now. The intensive militarization in Talaingod must be considered insofar as resolving the complaint,” Panguban said.
The Bay-ao family and counsel decided to file the case at the DOJ in Manila, instead of the Talaingod court in consideration of the safety of Bay-ao’s kin and the witness. In Talaingod, the perpetrators remain at large.
“We are hoping that DOJ will not abet in perpetrating the culture of impunity in the country,” Panguban ended.