JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA | Davao Today
BAGANGA, Davao Oriental – Former University of the Philippines professor, Kim Gargar, on Thursday pleaded “not guilty” to cases filed against him by the government military.
Gargar entered the no guilty plea before Judge Emilio Dayanghirang III, acting judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 7 in Baganga, Davao Oriental.
Gargar was charged with “illegal possession of explosives, violation of the Comelec gun ban and 2 cases of attempted murder” after he was arrested October 1, in Barangay Aliwagwag near the vicinity of a gunbattle between New People’s Army guerrillas members and government troops.
Gargar was brought by a police patrol van on handcuffs to the court two blocks away from the municipal jail where he was detained. He was met by his lawyer, Joel Mahinay, and his parents during the arraignment.
In an interview with davaotoday.com later inside his detention cell, Gargar scored on the military’s “inconsistent” allegation about him being a member of the New People’s Army.
“They should withdraw the cases they filed against me if they say I am a civilian. They are saying one thing but doing another,” said Gargar, who formerly taught physics in the UP.
“What they say doesn’t anymore matter but what matters is that they detained me and curtailed my freedom,” he said.
Gargar looked thin but exuded calm and elated over the presence of his parents to visit him in the jail and attend the arraignment on Thursday.
In a statement to the Davao media dated October 11, Alberto Caber, chief of the public information office of the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command said that the “NPAs utilization of Gargar in an attack against the government troops is a gross violation of the provision of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian law (CARHRIHL).”
Caber alleged that “in a recorded video statement, Gargar revealed that that he was given M16 rifle by the NPAs and was among those who fired against the soldiers during the said clash”. The footage was recorded during his interrogation in a military facility.
Caber said that Gargar was charged with several cases and that it was the “duty of the government through the PNP [Philippine National Police] to file cases against those who committed crimes.”
“If indeed Gargar is a civilian as claimed by the NPAs and [human rights group] Karapatan, he was therefore exploited by the NPAs which is a clear violation of his rights,” Caber said.
Gargar described his detention as “repression” of his freedoms and “delays their work in rehabilitating areas affected by Pablo”.
“It also affects the future generations which will also benefit from our reforestation program. If they are truly for development, they should have not given me or others who work for Pablo victims a hard time,” said Gargar.
Balsa Mindanao, a private relief organization, issued a public statement this month that corroborated Gargar’s claim that he was working with them to establish rehabilitation and livelihood projects in the typhoon-ravaged Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.
Projects included reforestation and sustainable agriculture activities.
He said that the military should not immediately “label” individuals from cities, like scientists and researchers, as members of the NPA and to later resort “to filing trumped-up cases against these individuals to save them from shame”.
He warned about this military posturing, citing the fatal case of botanist Leonard Co, who was conduting reforestation work for the Energy Development Corporation but was killed by elements of the military along with two companions in an purported encounter with NPA guerrillas in 2010.
In 2012, the Commission on Human Rights recommended the filing of criminal charges against the soldiers involved in the killing of Co saying that a CHR investigation found out that the alleged encounter never happened and that the soldiers only mistook them for insurgents.
Instead, Gargar said that the government must also support “scientists who work for domestic need”.
“A niece said she would visit me when she heard that I am a scientist because she is also interested in science. Such kids who are interested must be supported,” he said.
Gargar also said that a lawyer from The Netherlands contacted his group Agham would work on a proposal regarding scientists working in conflict areas.
“I hear that he is currently studying to propose an international policy that scientists who are working in conflict areas must be given a neutral status like emergency responders and medical personnel,” Gargar said.
He said that like medical personnel who are there to help no matter which side a person or group belongs, scientist also may have the same role.(John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)