Obstructing justice, literally, in Davao Oriental (Photos)
Millions of people were affected, while countless lives were lost or permanently scarred, when typhoon Pablo hit Southern Mindanao on December last year. Today, months after the natural calamity struck that part of the country, man-made calamities once again threaten the people: large-scale mining operations and logging continue unimpeded, while the military intensifies its martial rule there.
When Balsa Mindanao invited Pinoy Weekly to their humanitarian and fact-finding mission to Davao Oriental, we immediately dispatched Macky Macaspac to cover. Along with four journalists, including our partner in alternative media, Davao Today, Macky observed, documented and participated in gathering information on the humanitarian situation in Baganga, Davao Oriental. We will be coming out with a separate story on the findings–that of the mission, but also our own.
In the course of our coverage, though, we became part of the story. On April 19, the 69-member mission went off to the remote area of Baganga. On the way to Sitio Limot, Brgy. Binondo the mission site, they experienced checkpoints and unusual “road blocks”. In a scene that reminded us of the dictator Marcos’ Martial Law , the mission members were asked to alight the vehicles and were made to sign a logbook.
Returning from Limot, the mission members later found out that drivers of their rented vehicles had fled. The vehicles were left in Sitio Timbaon; the drivers were apparently forced by the military to leave. Thus began their long night in Sitio Cabuyao, where there was no electricity or cellphone signal. Only a month ago, Binondo was the site of an extrajudicial killing, that of local leader Cristina Jose. With the military controlling the flow of traffic to the sitio as darkness enveloped it, the mission members feared for the worst.
In Davao City and Metro Manila, church workers and human rights groups frantically called media outfits and anybody who could help the stranded mission members. Media groups, including the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, released statements of concern for the safety of journalists and mission members.
Thankfully, the next day, vehicles rented by human rights and progressive groups from Davao City broke through the road blocks to fetch the stranded mission members. Their ordeal may have ended, but the quest for justice in Baganga and elsewhere continues. (–Ed.)
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