CHR condemns ‘abuse’ of Aeta folk at Clark

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    EXCESSIVE FORCE. Heavily armed CDC men hold down Aeta Roldan Aquino during an incident near Clark freeport’s Gate 14 last May 6 when the election gun ban was already in effect. Cellphone photo by an Aeta

    CLARK FREEPORT – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has con-demned “acts of violence” against Aeta folk in this Freeport, as it vowed to “protect them from all forms of abuse.”

    The CHR expressed such condemnation in a letter to Clark Development Corp. (CDC) President-CEO Arthur Tugade, asking him  “to address the compelling concerns” of local Aeta tribal folk who claimed being “subjected to various forms of threat, intimidation, harassment and physical injuries.”

    This, even as Malacanang directed the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) to look into the Aeta folk’s complaint about “a vanished area of their ancestral domain” in the in the vicinity of this Freeport.

    In the letter to Tugade, CHR regional director Jasmin Navarro-Regino  cited the complaint of Ruvielane Margarito, identified as tribal chieftain of the Mabalacat Aeta Tribal Association (MATA),  regarding an  incident here last May 6.

    Margarito claimed that officers of the CDC, the state firm which runs this Freeport, “demolished their structure intended for hollow block (manufacturing) and where some of the Aeta tribal men were working.”

    “During the course of the demolition, Roldan Aquino, an Aeta tribesman, was attacked and was forcibly shoved to the ground by four men, which caused panic, threat and fear among the tribal group,” Regino told Tugade.

    A CDC official had earlier justified the attempt to relocate the Aetas’ factory, pointing out that it was built on the Sacobia riverbed and was thus illegal, and that the location also endangered the lives of the tribal folk, especially during the rainy season.

    Regino also said that “many if not all of the Aeta tribal group, including women and minors were subjected to various forms of threat, intimidation, harassment and physical injuries.”

    “This office condemns such acts of violence against the vulnerable sectors in our society, the Aetas in this particular case who, by reason of their vulnerability, are exposed and are highly susceptible (sic),” she said in her letter.

    Regino stressed “it is for this reason that the state must protect them from all forms of abuse to evenly balance their interest.”

    Meanwhile, Malacanang Presidential Action Center director Bobby Dumlao also asked  NCIP director for ancestral domain Jonathan Adaci to “take appropriate action” on the complaint of Aeta leader Roberto Serrano, also of MATA, about a “vanished area of their Ancestral Domain covered by Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title No. RO3-BAM-1204-025-A.”

    Margarito recalled that in 2006, the CDC had asked Aetas living near Clark Freeport’s Gate 14 to vacate their areas in exchange for “disturbance fee.”

    “What we know is that our ancestral domain there covered 121 hectares. But after some Aetas signed up for the disturbance fee which was also coupled with the condition for them never to return to the area, we were told that our ancestral lands there covered only two hectares,” she noted.

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