Police form task force to probe shooting of Ifugao farmers' group volunteer

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The regional police in the Cordillera have created a special task force that will investigate the shooting of Brandon Lee, a correspondent of the alternative online paper Northern Dispatch who was shot in front of his house in the capital town of Lagawe in Ifugao.

Police Major Carolina Lacuata, Police Regional Office Cordillera's public information office chief, said the task force seeks to immediately identify the perpetrator or perpetrators, and determine the motive of the shooting. 

At around 6 pm Tuesday, August 6, Lee was at home in Sitio Dugong, Barangay Tungngod, Lagawe, Ifugao. He had just fetched his daughter from school when he was shot in front of his house.

He was rushed to the Ifugao General Hospital Clinic in Natuwolan, Lagawe, for medical treatment after sustaining a gunshot wound on his face and another on his back area.

He is now confined at the Baguio General Hospital under strict security after suspicious characters were seen in the area.

Lee, 37, is a paralegal volunteer for the Ifugao Peasant Movement and was red-tagged by the military in 2015.

International media has picked up Lee's story, with Time Magazine, The Guardian, Yahoo News, and San Francisco Chronicle writing about Lee, a Chinese-American activist who decided to settle down in Ifugao after he got married there. 

"A San Francisco native who works as an environmental and indigenous rights volunteer in the Philippines was listed in critical condition Thursday after being shot 4 times in what relatives and colleagues believe was a political attack to silence him," wrote Michael Cabanatuan of the San Francisco Chronicle.

The San Francisco Chronicle also reported that Filipino and Chinese community leaders, including Supervisor Gordon Mar, will hold a gathering Friday morning, August 9, on the Polk Street steps outside San Francisco City Hall to condemn the shooting and call on the US Embassy and Congress to protect Lee.

UCAN, an international Catholic news wire, quoted Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) as saying that the attack on Lee was "an attempt to silence" those who speak for the rights of tribal communities.

"He has chosen a life in service of the people of Ifugao. As a volunteer of the Ifugao Peasant Leaders Forum, he implemented disaster response, relief operations, and recovery in far-flung barangays of Ifugao after Typhoon Pepeng. With Ifugao Peasant Movement, Brandon reached out to government employees and teachers in the province, working with them on sectoral issues and concerns," the CPA also said. 

Bayan USA, meanwhile, said in a statement that "it was Lee's dedication to seeking justice for victims of human rights violations and the rights of indigenous peoples, farmers, and peasants that drew the attention of the fascistic government, specifically by the 54th IBPA who had already been surveilling, threatening and harassing him prior to this incident." – Rappler.com