Davao City — Unlike other political activists around him who were critical of the government, Kerlan Fanagel, the secretary general of the indigenous peoples’ group Pasaka, never experienced ever receiving death threats through text messages before.
But what happened to him last month brought a serious threat to his life.
Fanagel’s photo appeared on the poster with 14 other Communist rebels wanted by the government dead or alive. The posters were about the size of two bond papers, conspicuously posted on the walls of terminal buildings, eateries and other public areas in Compostela Valley.
The name below the picture was not his but the face was unmistakable.
“It was not his name but it was his face,” said Tony Salubre, Fanagel’s friend who first saw the posters.
The name below the picture was that of Minandro Villanueva, alias “Nelson,” who, the posters read, operates in the areas of Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and a portion of Agusan del Sur, Davao del Sur and Cotabato.
WANTED. Lumad leader Kerlan Fanagel is surprised to see his picture on a poster of the wanted list of Communist rebels displayed in public areas in Compostela town of Compostela Valley Province. Fanagel figured in the fight against the militarization of lumad communities in Compostela. His lumad group Pasaka points to the 28th IB of the Philippine Army as the people behind those posters, an accusation that the Philippine Army denies. (davaotoday.com photo by Jonald Mahinay)
Fanagel’s photo was displayed side by side with those of known NPA leaders Ka Parago, Lalay Rosete, Alex Rosete, Ka Jinggoy, Ka Jasmin and others.
The poster’s heading read, “Wanted Communist Rebels,” in Cebuano. It called on those who read it to help in the arrest of those in the picture for a reward money from the government.
It also instructed the people to give the information to officials of the barangay, municipality, provincial or the military soldiers. On the poster was a cell phone number where the barangay people can call.
Salubre spotted the poster after eating lunch in a restaurant in sitio Bango on August 11 when he noticed the familiar face on the wall. When Salubre and his companion went to the terminal to board a bus, they saw other similar posters.
“I sent (Fanagel) a text message,” Salubre said. “I said, you look like a politician here, your photos are all over the place.” He tried to kid his friend so that Fanagel will not panic.
Fanagel feared for his life because the poster gives license to kill him. “It says there, dead or alive,” said Fanagel. “They’re red-baiting me. They want to taint my name. They are conditioning the mind of the public so that it would be fine if I get killed. Now if something bad happens to me, you already know who’s to blame,” Fanagel said.
Pasaka pointed to the 28th IB-PA as the culprit behind the posters. According to Pasaka, the “malicious” and “baseless accusation” against Fanagel is politically motivated. Fanagel figured in the local struggles in Compostela Valley against increased military presence in Lumad communities.
In May, Fanagel was among those who helped Lumads displaced by military operations in their communities. He has been criticizing the relentless military operations which have displaced hundreds of lumads in Compostela.
“The military wants to discredit Pasaka and me because we’ve been exposing human rights violations committed by the military in the area,” he said.
On July 27 this year, before the wanted posters came out, members of the 28th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army gathered barangay officials and sitio leaders in Compostela town gym, where they were shown a powerpoint presentation entitled “The Army,” in which towards the end, Fanagel’s photo appeared.Indigenous Peoples