Reposted below is the full text of the “Free the Sagfada 11 petition”. which calls for the release of the 11 young mountaineers accused of being communist rebels.
To: Philippine Government, Police Force, Military, Justice Department
Last February 14, a group of 11 backpackers went to Baguio to join the festivities in the annual Baguio Flower Festival and proceed to the idyllic mountain paradise of Sagada. They were Rundren Berloize Lao, 24, from Davao City; Aldoz Christian Munoza, 18, single, of Santolan, Pasig City; Darwin Alazar y Padilla, 21, single, native of Tipuso, Urdaneta City, Pangasinan; Arvie Nunez, 21, single, native of Silang, Mayaw, Lucena City; Ray Lester Mendoza y Esquerra, 16, from San Francisco, Makati City; Neil Russel Balajadia, 25, single, from Santolan, Pasig City; Jethro Villegas, 21, single, of Malagos, Calinan, Davao City; Anderson Alonzo, 18, single, also of Malagos, Calinan, Davao City; Ronron Pandino, 20, single, from San Quintin, Laguna; Frencess Ann Bernal, 15, single, of Camupang, Marikina City; and Jefferson dela Rosa y dela Cruz, 20, single, of Santolan, Pasig City. All of them just wanted to have some fun, after their musical tour (they came from a punk music event that was held in Tarlac).
At around 6 a.m of the same day, the group hitchhiked aboard a dump truck along the Baguio-Bontoc Road (Halsema Highway). This was their mode of transportation to Sagada. Around noontime, without any provocation, they were held in gunpoint by police looking for New Peopleâ€™s Army (NPA) rebels at a checkpoint in Bangao village, Buguias town, northern Benguet.
â€œTinutukan agad ng mga baril na mahahabaâ€ from the words of Rundren Lao, one of the lads that were accused as NPAs. They were kicked and manhandled as there were obvious signs of torture all over their bodies. The parents of the victims were aghast when they saw the group of youth – bruised, wounded and still in a state of shock. The group were tied, some handcuffed, and were brought forcefully to the station of the 1604th Police Mobile Group in Camp Molintas, Abatan, also in Benguet.
The actions done by the Benguet Police were definitely wrong, however you look at it. These acts deserve condemnation, if not punishment by recalling all those involved from their duties. The Sagada 11 are innocent, adventure loving trekkers. Most likely, due to the macho, prejudiced and unintelligent nature of police officers and the backwardness of the police institution itself, they have assumed that these individuals are â€œcommunistsâ€ and â€œarmed rebelsâ€ due to the fact that they look and dress different (punks tend to dress differently – Rundren Lao even had dreadlocks which he cut in his attempt to escape to maintain a low profile). The closest they can be related to â€œrebellionâ€ is due to their involvement with the non-violent peace organization Food not Bombs, a vegetarian anti-war group where the main activity is to recycle food to feed the poor and hungry homeless vagrants all throughout the country.
As the Sagada 11 groupâ€™s friends, comrades, fellow musicians, and peace-loving people who respect human rights, we demand for:
1. The immediate and unconditional release of the Sagada 11
2. A public apology to be issued to the victims and their families
3. The termination of the responsible people from their duties as police officers and government workers, whether they are directly or indirectly involved.
FREE THE SAGADA 11!
STOP POLICE REPRESSION AND BUTALITY!
RESPECT HUMAN RIGHTS!