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Philippine military blamed for shooting of rights defender

BAGUIO (UCAN): Good Shepherd Sister Genoveva Dumay, who works with farmers and political prisoners in the northern region of the country, accused the Philippine military of being behind the shooting of Brandon Lee, a human rights defender in the northern Philippine city of Baguio on August 6.
 
Gunmen shot and badly wounded the American citizen who works as a volunteer for a farmers’ organization. Sister Dumay said Lee, who is married to a Filipino and is fighting for his life, had told her that soldiers had been following and harassing him.
 
Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala denied the allegation, saying,  “The Philippine army is people-centred, thus we strictly adhere to the provisions of human rights.” 
 
Philippine authorities say a special task force will investigate the shooting.
 
The 37-year-old Lee, a paralegal volunteer for the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), was allegedly red-tagged—or declared a communist rebel sympathiser—by the military in 2015.
 
“He told me that he was being tailed by military people,” said Sister Dumay who has worked with Lee on several occasions, particularly on human rights issues.
 
“I saw how he worked with the peasants. They were not rebels and they were not armed,” she said.
 
“My congregation and we, as a Church, condemn the attacks by the military against Lee, IPM members and those defending human rights,” she said.
 
Lee took up permanent residence in the Philippines in 2010, joined the IPM the same year and wrote for the local news agency Northern Dispatch.
 
He was the third IPM member to be attacked. In 2014, William Bugatti, another paralegal officer, was shot dead after being tagged a communist rebel. The same fate awaited Ricardo Mayumi, who was killed in March 2018.
 
The tribal group, Sandugo, claimed that 49 tribal community members across the country have been killed since the president, Rodrigo Duterte, came to power in 2016.
 
“Those who support our plight are also being targeted,” Kerlan Fanagel, a Sandugo spokesperson, said.
 
He said military operations against suspected communist rebels have intensified in tribal communities, resulting in forced evacuations.

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