Army detains six farmers in Ilocos Sur

BAGUIO CITY–The Solidarity of Peasants against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation) condemned the police and military following the detention of six farmers in Salcedo town, Ilocos Sur Tuesday.

In a statement, Stop Exploitation secretary general Zaldy Alfiler said the 81st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army detained Divino Tabucol, Dhanjor Hagacer, Isaias Anganan, Ricardo Foronda, Sr., Ronald Dagui, Nicolas Acutan, Ricardo Foronda, Jr. from nine in the morning but were only turned over to PNP Salcedo around seven in the evening.

The victims were interrogated and were shown a list of 18 names of Barangay Babayading residents they claimed to be New People’s Army supporters, Alfiler said.

A few days earlier, Lt. Col. Osias, commanding officer of the 81st IB, claimed his unit was able to retrieve documents containing names they alleged to be “sympathizers” of the revolutionary movement.

Alfiler added that on July 26, leaders of the group Timpuyog ti Umili ti Karayan Buaya (TUKB) were asked by a certain police officer Battad from Salcedo municipal police for the names of their farmer-members.

The officer reportedly told the farmers the order to check on the farmers came from the military.

“We believe that this is a ploy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to red-tag, vilify and possibly implicate our members after the reported fire fight that transpired between the government troops and New People’s Army (NPA) in the same municipality,” Alfiler said.

Alfiler added the AFP and PNP wrongfully train their sights on peasant leaders in line with their counter-insurgency operations.

“In fact, leaders of STOP Exploitation have been persecuted and detained for trumped-up charges before,” Alfiler said.

Alfiler said that in 2000, several Stop Exploitation leaders were arrested, detained, tortured and charged with trumped up charges for the death of Conrado Balweg. All the cases were later dismissed.

Trumped-up charges were again filed against four Stop Exploitation leaders for the NPA raid of the Sta. Lucia Police Station in 2003. For lack of evidence, all the cases were again dismissed.

Members of the 7th CMO unit of the AFP based in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur likewise accused members of Stop Exploitation in Brgy. Bugnay, Candon City of recruiting for the NPA.

The PNP and AFP have continuously harassed members of TUKB during the height of the campaign against military encampment in communities and public places in Sta. Lucia, Salcedo and Sta. Cruz from 2012 to 2016, the group said.

Elements from PNP Sta. Lucia and the military also maligned its members from Paoc Norte and Conconig East after its general assembly in October 2015.

“Without a doubt, the frequency and intensity of attacks against peasant communities and organizations will increase after the vile and hateful pronouncements made by President Rodrigo Duterte against the people’s movement in his press conference after addressing the protesters outside the Batasang Pambansa Monday,” Alfiler said. # (Kimberlie Ngabit-Quitasol)