BAGUIO, Philippines (CNS) — A Catholic nun accused the military of being behind the shooting of a human rights defender in the northern Philippines Aug. 6.
“It’s the military,” said Good Shepherd Sister Genoveva Dumay, who works with farmers and political prisoners in the northern region of the country.
Gunmen shot and seriously wounded Brandon Lee, an American citizen who works as a volunteer for a farmers’ organization, ucanews.com reported.
Sister Dumay said Lee had told her that soldiers had been following and harassing him.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala denied the allegation.
“The Philippine army is people centered, thus we strictly adhere to the provisions of human rights,” he said.
Lee, who is married to a Filipino woman, is fighting for his life after being shot several times.
Philippine authorities said a special task force will investigate the shooting.
Lee, 37, a paralegal volunteer for the Ifugao Peasant Movement, allegedly was “red-tagged,” or declared a communist rebel sympathizer 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 added.
Lee became a permanent resident of the Philippines in 2010, joined the peasant movement the same year and wrote for the local news agency Northern Dispatch.
Lee become the third peasant movement member to be attacked.
In 2014, William Bugatti, another paralegal officer, was killed 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 President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in 2016.
“Those who support our plight are also being targeted,” said Kerlan Fanagel, a Sandugo spokesman.
He said military operations against suspected communist rebels have intensified in tribal communities, resulting in forced evacuations.
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