A look back into the case of activist Jomorito Goaynon

Lumad leader Datu Jomorito “Jumong” Goaynon, chairperson of the Kalumbay Lumad organization, is one of a few charged with “terrorism” under the Human Security Act, the law which is now being amended by the regime through the Anti-Terrorism Bill.

Goaynon was illegally arrested on January 28, 2019 along with Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Northern Mindanao chairperson Ireneo Udarbe at a checkpoint of the 65th IB in Talakag, Bukidnon while on their way to a meeting with fellow peasants. He was charged in May 2019 for violating the HSA. He has been languishing in jail for almost a year and a half now.

Goaynon is also one of the founding leaders of Sandugo Alliance of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self-Determination, and served as one of the spokespersons of the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya, the annual march, rally, and camp-out by Filipino minority peoples of the Philippines in Manila. Prior to his arrest, he was subjected to red tagging by the Duterte regime and was being publicly accused of being “top leader” of the New People’s Army (NPA) and a “terrorist.”

The charges of terrorism against Goaynon was dismissed due to lack of merit along with charges of attempted murder, frustrated murder, illegal possession of firearms and explosives, and rebellion filed against him. He, however, remains detained as he faces other trumped-up charges of kidnapping, robbery and arson.

Datu Jumong was among the 657 activists and individuals labeled by the Department of Justice as “terrorists” in its proscription case against the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and NPA. The said case was filed before the Manila Regional Trial Court in February 2018, three months after Duterte’s issuance of the Proclamation 374 declaring the CPP and NPA as “terrorist organizations.” Widely denounced as a witchhunt, the case was refiled on July 2018 with Goaynon’s name, along with approximately 600 more, removed. Despite this, the surveillance on and harassment against Goaynon and his colleagues continued unabated.

Goaynon earned the ire of the military and successive fascist regime for championing and defending the cause of the poor Lumad peasants. He was subjected to harassment by the 65th IB to pressure him to “surrender” as an “NPA leader.” This prompted him to file a complaint before the Commission on Human Rights a week prior to being arrested by the same military unit. Goaynon’s photograph was displayed in public places across Northern Mindanao accusing him of being an “NPA recruiter.” He was also reported to have received numerous death threats from the military.

The International Indigenous Peoples Movement asserted that Goaynon is not a terrorist but a human rights defender who was unjustly arrested for rightly defending his fellow Lumads’ ancestral lands from plunder both by the government and private entities. He was engaged in documenting human rights violation against Lumads as he was also a vocal critics of the regime’s plan to displace residents from their ancestral lands to pave way for the expansion of plunderous mining, logging and plantation concessions, as well as plans to convert these for ecotourism-uses.