MANILA, Philippines – An indigenous (lumad) leader defending workers and farmers in Malaybalay town in Bukidnon is jailed due to trumped up cases including murder.
Jerry Caringas of the Higaonon tribe and formerly employed with the Bukidnon Second District (BUSECO), was arrested last May 17 while walking with his wife downtown in Malaybalay City.
Charges lodged in court October 2009 in Malaybalay include cases of murder and attempted murder. These alleged Caringas and two others joined the New People's Army in a raidi against a military detachment resulting in the deaths of government soldiers.
Caringas was immediately arrested without a subpoena from the court and said he was denied the chance to respond to the charges, a procedure granted by law.
The lumad leader denies involvement in any of the cases, saying this is a dirty ploy that the military has used to vilify defenders and activists by linking them to revolutionary groups, and serves as a way to silence them from advocating workers' and farmers' rights in their community.
Caringas is at the Bureau of Jail and Management Philippines (BJMP) in Malaybalay. Union of Peoples' Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) represents him in court.
Caringas, 49, married with a 16-year old daughter. He has been an active people's defender, having served as secretary general of the lumad alliance in Northern Mindanao, Kalumbay from 2004 to 2007. He also sits as council member of Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamayan ng Pilipinas (Coalition of Peoples in the Philippines).
Barug Katungod Mindanao sees Caringal as an indigenous leader of Kalumbay, leading his communities in campaigns against development aggression. Operations of large-scale mining and logging, and military operations that accompany these activities has destroyed the peace in Bukidnon, Caringas was quoted as saying. His group also put up literacy and numeracy schools for Lumads in his community.
Barug Katungod Mindanao is a consortium of human rights and peace groups in Mindanao including InPeace Mindanao, Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao, Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao or Kalumaran , and is supported by the European Commission under the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) program. # V. Ramo