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KMP: Gov’t anti-insurgency drive targets farmers, people’s organizations

The Rodrigo Duterte government targets and forces farmers to pose as surrenderers and be counted as trophies in its anti-insurgency campaign, an investigation by a farmers’ group revealed.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said a nationwide profiling campaign is ongoing against farmers, many of whom are later listed and presented as surrendered New People’s Army (NPA) members or supporters by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). 

The KMP said the attacks on the peasant sector was affirmed by its series of online fact-finding activities with campaign group Tanggol Magsasaka on farmers, leaders, and other residents in 11 provinces nationwide from July to August.

More than 70 victims gave their testimonies and affidavits on over a hundred cases of human rights abuses perpetrated by state forces, KMP said.

The groups’ first ever online fact-finding activity was aimed to “expose the Duterte regime’s dirty and brutal war targeting farmers, to silence their collective struggle for land, economic reforms, and social justice. “

The fact-finding mission was held just as President Duterte bragged in his last State of the Nation Address last July 26 that about 17,000 NPA members have already surrendered to government forces.

“More than 17,000 former communist rebels have surrendered to the government. They have returned to the fold of the law and are happily reintegrating to the community,” Duterte said.

The President added his administration’s projects such as farm-to-market roads, livelihood, education and sanitation were able to destroy 15 NPA fronts, which he did not identify.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) however laughed at the President’s claim, pointing out past military claims the NPA has no more than 4,000 fighters left.

“”Fifteen guerrilla fronts dismantled? Dream on, Duterte. Si Gen. Hermogenes Esperon ng NTF-ELCAC nagsabi, mahigit daw 4,000 noong June ang NPA mula 3,700 noong December,” CPP information officer Marco Valbuena said.

Civilians

The KMP said many of those claimed by NTF-ELCAC’s to be surrenderers were civilians, including farmers, farm workers, peasant leaders, rural women and youth, and fisher folk.

“[T]he majority of these so-called surrenderers are civilians — ordinary farmers who were either coerced, forced, or duped into ‘surrendering’ to the government,” the KMP said.

The group said that based on initial findings of its online investigation, red-tagging, threat, harassment, and intimidation are the most common forms of abuse by state forces.

Other instances of abuses include:

* Home and farm “intimidation visits” by police, military, and intelligence agents;

* “Forced presentation” of peasant leaders, farmers, and civilians to village authorities and Philippine Army camps to have their names “cleared”; and

* Forced attendance in village meetings organized by the military to be “lectured” on counterinsurgency. 

KMP said that individuals targeted for forced surrender were intimidated to sign document denouncing local organization and the CPP-NPA-NDFP alleged as “Communist Terrorist Groups.”  

The group’s accusations mirror the December 2019 Philippine Army admission it manipulated a photo to show a group of so-called NPA surrenderers in Masbate province.

The Philippine Army photo it released to the media that it also later admitted was manipulated.

Automatic NPA supporters

The KMP revealed government forces automatically accuse local peasant organizations and associations supporters of the NPA or have links and relations to the CPP, NPA and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). 

“Farmers and rural populations in localities are often red-tagged as members of the so-called Milisyang Bayan and Sangay ng Partido sa Lokalidad. Legitimate peasant organizations engaged in farm campaigns, campaigns for land reform, against land-grabbing, against high land rent, and other forms of feudal exploitation are always and automatically red-tagged and vilified by state forces,” KMP said.

The group added its affiliates as well as those of other peasant organizations have been red-tagged, including Danggayan, Dagami, Kaguimungan, UMA-Isabela, AMIHAN-Ambi, PIGLAS and CLAIM in Quezon, AMB in Bulacan, KMB, BCPAI, and LAMBAT in Bicol, and local organizations of farmers in Cavite, Camarines Sur, Albay, Iloilo, and Capiz. 

“In the course of the comprehensive and sustained forced surrender campaigns, state forces, and authorities use varied forms ranging from persuasion, deception, fraud, subterfuge, suppression, coercion, and outright use of force and violence,” the KMP said.

It added the government’s counter-insurgency campaign takes full advantage to enforce more restrictions in peasant communities, making peasant communities and villages virtual military garrisons. 

The group said its fact-finding mission will continue in the coming weeks to further probe the situation in other regions and provinces. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Para kay Karen at Sherlyn

Ni Ma. Cristina Guevarra

(Ang may akda ay noon pang 2019 nagtapos sa kursong Library and Information Science sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas. Si Giba Guevarra ay isang tagapatanggol ng karapatang tao. Itong sanaysay na ito ay ipinangako niya noon hinggil sa kanyang pagtatapos at ang papel ng mga desaperasido at kapwa ni Iskolar ng Bayan na sina Sherlyn Cadapan at Karen Empeño. Ang dalawa ay dinukot ng mga sundalo ng Philippine Army sa ilalim ng kriminal na retiradong si Jovito Palparan noong Hunyo 26, 2006.)

Pababa na ang eroplano sa runway nang tanungin ko sa kasama ko, “Ano ang dadalhin ko sa makalawa? PPs (political prisoners) na lang?” Pagkatapos naisip ko, paano ko dadalhin iyong napakaraming placard?

Pero kailangang may dalhin ako, na partikular na panawagang HR (human rights). Kasi iyong mga mas bata, sigurado mayroon nang tungkol sa edukasyon, sa imperyalismo, sa pasistang rehimen, sa “Serve the People.”

“Dalhin mo sina Karen at Sherlyn, mga desap(arecido),” sagot ng kasama. Inasahan ko pa na sumang-ayon siya sa akin dahil asawa siya ng PP. Pero sabi niya, may ibang pagkakataon pa para itampok ang mga PPs. At natatangi ang araw na iyon – sa akin, sa kanilang dalawa, sa UP.

Kasabay ng pag-igtad ng eroplano, tumalon ang puso ko. “Hala, nakakaiyak naman iyon. Pero oo nga, ‘no!” Ilang araw lang bago iyon, June 26, inalala ang ika-13 taong pagkawala nila (ngayon ay ika-15 taon na). Tahimik ko silang inalala nang araw na iyon, samantalang nakikibalita sa tinakbo ng aktibidad sa UP. Tulad ng dati, nandoon ang dalawang nanay. Wala akong matandaang taon na pumalya sila sa mga aktibidad para umalala, at manawagan ng “Ilitaw!” at “Hustisya!”

Kinabukasan, nag-text ako sa dalawang nanay. “’Nay Coni (Empeño) at ‘Nay Linda (Cadapan), graduation po bukas sa UP. Magma-martsa po ako. Hihilingin ko po sana na kayo ang sumama sa akin. Para sa inyo ito at kina Karen at Sherlyn. Kaya lang umaga po ang graduation, 6am assembly. Kaya niyo po kaya makapunta, kung manggaling pa kayong malayo?”

Hindi sila nag-reply sa text. Nagsitawag sila. Anong oras daw, aalis sila ng hatinggabi, ng madaling araw. Doon na ika ko kami magkita sa Quezon Hall.

Alam ng maraming malapit na kaibigan kung gaano ako katagal “nagsikap” makatapos. “Nagsikap” dahil hindi naman miminsang binitiwan, binalikan, sinukuan, sinubukan ulit. Maraming dahilan at iba’t ibang sirkunstansya. Siguro, maraming aktibista na rin ang dumaan sa ganoon ding tunggalian sa sarili. Uunahin ko pa ba ang diploma, samantalang ang daming gawaing dapat gawin? Hahanapan ka ba ng masa ng transcript mo kapag nakipamuhay ka sa kanila?

Si Giba, hawak ang placard para kina Sherlyn Cadapan at Karen Empeno.

Sa kabilang banda, hindi ko rin itatapon ang maraming natutunan sa maraming maraming klaseng pinasukan, ipinasa man o hindi. Mula sa unang kolehiyo sa Mass Communication, sa gusaling katanawan lang ng Oblation, hanggang sa munting kolehiyo sa ikatlong palapag ng Main Library (pero ikalimang palapag ang katumbas ng taas ng hagdan) kung saan naroon naman ang orihinal na rebulto ng Oblation. Dito sa huli, walang alinlangan akong kinanlong, ginabayan, tinuruan at itinawid (may diin sa huling salita) ng mga guro at mga kawani. Laluna, bukod sa marami ay halos kaedad ko na, ay katalakayan ko hindi lang kung LC ba o DDC, mga catalog at abstract, sa respect des fonds at provenance, records at archives, kundi pati na sa mga pinagka-kaabalahan sa mas malaking oras kapag hindi nila ako nakikita sa kolehiyo.

At dahil nga sa tagal, sa hindi pang-”honor and excellence” na academic record, naisip ko ring huwag nang dumalo sa graduation. Alanganin at mahihirapan din kasing dumalo ang mga kapamilya ko. Kahit na ang mga mahalagang tao sa akin na gusto ko sanang naroon ay hindi rin pwede. Sabi ko, iuuwi ko na lang ang mga katibayan at kwento – may graduation picture naman na ako, may hardbound thesis, at may mga katibayang papel.

Pero tumama nga rin sa akin, dadalo ako hindi lang bilang ako, bagay na laging itinuturo at pinapaalala sa mga aktibista – na hindi lang tayo ito, sa anumang bagay na sinasabi o ginagawa natin. Hindi ko pwedeng sayangin ang pagkakataong ito.

Bago ito, may college graduation nang idinaos ang kolehiyo namin. Biruan pa doon, huwag pa raw kaming pakasisiguro dahil baka ilang araw pagkatapos nito, may mga kulang pa kaming requirement. Ano pa nga ba, isa ako sa mga pinagpawisan ang dean namin na matagal na ngang kasama sa candidates for graduation, pero may hinahanap pa ring nawawalang grade sheet, class card (tapos walang online records!), kasama na ang tumbasan ng mga subject sa luma at bagong curriculum.

Si Giba sa kanyang pagtatapos.

Pero noong bisperas ng university graduation, iba na ang pinag-uusapan namin. Sabi ko, kasama ko ang dalawang nanay ng dalawang nawawalang estudyante ng UP. Pakisabi naman kay Chancellor, para ma-recognize naman sila. Dala ko rin ang placard nila.

Nag-motor lang ako papunta ng UP kinaumagahan, kahit naka-bestida at may dala pang parang shopping bag kung saan nakalagay ang mga placard. Kasama ng mga placard ang nakatuping sablay na hiniram lang din. Nandoon na ang dalawang nanay, nagpapapasok na daw sa Amphitheater grounds. Naghahanap pa ng pass ang mga ushers, sabi ko wala, basta sila ang kasama ko. Mahigpit ang hawak ko sa mga placard, inaalala ko baka sitahin. Huling hirit ko na ito, papayag pa ba ako na makumpiska o ipagbawal ito?

Humahangos na ako papunta sa upuan sa linya ng kolehiyo namin: School of Library and Information Studies. Kumakaway ang college secretary namin, at may sinasabi pero di ko naiintindihan. Kumaway at ngumiti na lang din ako. Iyon pala, binanggit na ako ni Chancellor sa programa. At binanggit din ang dalawang nanay, at ang mga pangalan nila Karen at Sherlyn. May konting hiyawan akong narinig mula sa audience. Napangiti ako, kilala pa sila ng henerasyon ngayon ng mga estudyante.

Abala ako sa pagpupunas ng pawis (nakapulbos na nga lang, humulas pa), nang lapitan ako ng isang graduate din, “Ate, anong oras ang lightning rally?” Hindi ko alam, sabi ko. Basta may hudyat na lang iyan. Sa loob-loob ko, lokong bata ito, porke matanda ako dito mukha akong command? Natawa ako sa sarili, nakita nga kasi ang mga placard. Patuloy akong nakinig sa programa.

Ang sabi ko sa dalawang nanay, maupo na lang sa gilid kung nasaan ang mga magulang, kaanak. Hindi ko na rin alam saan sila pumwesto. Maya-maya, may sumigaw na ng “Iskolar ng bayan, ngayon ay lumalaban!” Tumayo na ako at mabilis na lumakad papunta sa harapan, bitbit ang mga placard – dalawang larawang nakangiti nila Karen at Sherlyn na may salitang “Ilitaw!” Napuno na ang harapan ng mga graduate na may mga bandila, placard, streamer. Natatangi ang litrato nilang dalawa.

Biglang sumulpot ang dalawang nanay, nakisigaw at nagtaas ng kamao kasama namin. May dala rin silang litrato nina Karen at She. Iyong kay Karen, iyong graduation picture niya na naka-tibak (aktibista) outfit. Sinimulan nang awitin ang UP Naming Mahal. Nagbara na ang lalamunan ko.

Pinalibutan ng mga batang graduate ang dalawang nanay pagkatapos umawit, maraming yumayakap, nagpapakuha ng litrato. Tuwang-tuwa ang mga magulang. Di nga raw sila nakatiis at tumakbo nang makita na may aksyon pala sa pagtatapos ng graduation. Bumati rin ng “congratulations” sa iba pang estudyanteng nagsipagtapos.

“Para na rin silang nag-graduate,” sabi ng dalawang masayang nanay sa akin. Walang kasing-tingkad ang sunflowers nang araw na iyon sa University Avenue, gayundin ang mga larawan nilang nakangiti.

Ika nga nila, may simula sa bawat pagtatapos. Dahil hindi natatapos ang mga paglabag sa karapatang pantao, at nananatiling makatwiran ang pakikibaka. Para sa mga hamon sa bawat araw na darating pa, dito tayo magsimula. #

Ang mga larawang ginamit ay kuha nina Ramon Ramirez at Efren Ricalde.

Court junks police-military charge against teacher-unionist

By Joseph Cuevas

A municipal court in Agusan del Norte dismissed the case against a teacher and leader of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) in the Caraga Region.

Citing lack of evidence, the 2nd municipal circuit trial court in Santiago Tubay approved the recommendation of the provincial prosecutor and ordered the dismissal of the attempted homicide charge filed against Rosanilla “Lai” Consad.

Consad is a special education teacher and assistant principal of San Vicente National High School in Butuan City. She is also a member of ACT’s National Council.

The court said, “Finding merit on the counterveilling evidence submitted by the accused Rosanilla ‘Lai’ Consad, the investigating Provincial Prosecutor recommended the dismissal of the case against her for total lack of evidence.”

The court added that the accused proved she was at home on November 21, 2020, the day of the ambush the military alleged she was part of.

Through messages stored on her mobile phone, the teacher proved she was busy with her laundry and was in fact assisted by her son on the morning of the incident.

She was also busy on Facebook and sending messages to her co-teachers and DepEd school supervisor.

Assistant Principal and Alliance of Concerned Teachers national council officer Rosanilla Consad. (Supplied photo)

Consad was arrested last March 17 by a combined team of police and military personnel who later charged her with the crime of attempted homicide for participating in a New People’s Army (NPA) ambush in Sitio Manhupaw in Santiago, Agusan Del Norte.

ACT hailed the court’s decision, adding the “ridiculous case” against Consad was only meant to harass and persecute her for being an ACT unionist.

“This is a clear case of the state’s deplorable weaponization of the law against critics and dissenters,” ACT secretary general Raymond Basilio said.

The group said that in its press conference after Consad’s arrest, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) falsely claimed she was a high-ranking Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA officer.

Weeks after her arrest, NTF-ELCAC and DepEd Caraga also held a seminar that red-tagged teacher Lai in one of the presentations, ACT said.

ACT said it is preparing to file counter-charges against those who arrested and unjustly charged her. #

Group reveals attacks on media and human rights websites

Digital platforms linked to the Rodrigo Duterte government launched attacks on the websites of alternative media outfits and a human rights organization, a Sweden-based digital forensics group revealed.

Several internet protocol (IP) addresses linked to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Philippine Army attacked the websites of media outfits Bulatlat (Bulatlat.com) and Altermidya (Altermidya.net) and human rights group Karapatan (Karapatan.org), Qurium Media Foundation reported.

Qurium said that it was able to identify a vulnerability scan an attack on Bulatlat.com last May 18 by a machine from the DOST network with IP address 202.90.137{.}42.

The vulnerability scan sought potential weaknesses in the targeted network without permission from the system owner, Qurium said.

The group said the IP address’ certificate was registered to IP Solutions, Inc., a supplier of hardware and services to Philippine government agencies.

Another unit under the same IP address was registered to a certain “acepcionecjr@army.mil.ph Taguig Red Server.”

The “army.mil.ph” is the official domain and website of the Philippine Army.

The IP address was also traced to an edit in the Wikipedia entry “Chief of the Army (Philippines)” last June 10, 2021, Qurium said.

The series of attacks also included “HTTP flood attacks”, a type of volumetric Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack designed to overwhelm a targeted server with seemingly legitimate HTTP requests.

Kodao was first to announce of an intense DDoS attack that coincided with the attacks on AlterMidya, Bulatlat and Karapatan.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has issued separate alerts on both reports. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Massacre victims possibly raped, tortured

Twelve year old Angel Rivas and her 21-year old lesbian sister Lenie may have been raped and tortured by the soldiers who killed them last Tuesday, June 15, an indigenous people’s advocacy group said.

Way too many bullets were also fired on Angel’s face, making her unrecognizable despite stitches that now hold her shattered head together.

An aunt (name withheld for security reasons) also told Save Our Schools Network the Angel’s genitals were defiled.

Gibastos gyud ang iyang lawas, gi-rape, gihilabtan, guba kaayo ang atubangan,” the relative said. (They defiled her body, she was raped, her genitals torn apart.)

In February 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered government soldiers to fire guns at suspected rebels’ vaginas, adding, “If there is no vagina, it (the women) would be useless.”

“Tell the soldiers. ‘There’s a new order coming from the mayor. We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina,’” Duterte said from the presidential palace.

Devastated family

The sisters,along with cousin Willy Rodriguez, were killed in the second massacre in Lianga, Surigao del Sur since September 1, 2015.

The 3rd Special Forces Battalion of the Philippine Army told the victims’ relatives they were pursuing New People’s Army guerrillas when a fire fight ensued that had the three killed as hapless bystanders.

The claim however contradicted statements made from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) general headquarters and by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) that the three were NPA fighters who first fired at them that resulted in a 10-minute fire fight.

Both also alleged Angel was a NPA child warrior.

But the victims’ relatives said the young Lumad-Manobo farmers and three other kin simply took a break from harvesting abaca hemp at their farm and went to Lianga town proper to buy rice.

They came across the soldiers who, without warning, opened fire at them. The three were killed while the other three were able to run away.

The victim’s families were only made aware of the incident at around 10 o’clock Tuesday evening after soldiers presented to them the lifeless body of Angel, wrapped in plastic and packaging tape.

Lenie and Willy’s bodies were later found in a separate location.

When the Rivas family were able to uncover Angel’s body at a funeral home Wednesday morning, they were shocked at the gruesome state of body and her once pretty face that was already full of crude stitches.

From pictures sent to journalists by the SOS Network, Angel’s face now looks like a grotesque mask that is mangled and askew beyond recognition. Her right eye lid is also missing, revealing an empty socket were her eye used to be.

Her aunt told SOS that Angel and Lenie’s father was devastated.


Lenie’s body was also full of stitches while Willy’s had fractures in his limbs wrapped with packaging tape, suggesting that he might have been tortured or had bones broken after being shot.

The soldiers also reportedly tried to stop the families from taking photographs of the bodies.

SOS said a certain Colonel Aranas offered to pay all funeral expenses but was rejected by the relatives.

Angel was an honor student of the Tribal Filipino School in Surigao Sur (TRIFPSS) who transferred to the Department of Education Alternative Learning System during the pandemic. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Latest Lianga massacre was 25th under Duterte, Karapatan reports

The deaths of three Lumad-Manobo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur last Tuesday, June 15, is the 25th massacre of civilians in the Rodrigo Duterte government’s counter-insurgency campaign, a human rights group reported.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights said the Lianga Massacre on June 15 was the second since 2015 and “a testimony of the [Duterte] regime’s hideous legacy of killings” that continues up to its last year in power.

“We condemn in the strongest terms this latest massacre in Lianga and ask with much rage, ‘How many more will Duterte’s state forces kill and kill?’” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan’s Caraga regional chapter said in an urgent alert last Wednesday that troops belonging to the 3rd Special Forces Battalion (SFB) of the Philippine Army fired upon a group of six farmers, killing three while the three others ran for safety.  

Killed were farmers Willy Rodriguez, Lenie Rivas and Angel Rivas in Sitio Panukmoan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

All members of the Lumad-Manobo tribe, they were residents of Sitio Manluy-a, Brgy. Diatagon.

Angel Rivas, 12 years old, was a Grade 6 student of the Lumad school Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) while her sister Lenie and cousin Willy Rodriguez were members of Lumad organization Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU).

The soldiers brought the lifeless bodies of the three to their brigade headquarters in St. Christine, Lianga and presented the victims as New People’s Army (NPA) members.

Spokespersons of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict were also quick to allege Angel was an NPA “child soldier” killed in a firefight with the government soldiers.

Relatives of the victims however belied the government’s claim and said the victims were simply on their way to Lianga town proper to buy rice after harvesting abaca hemp at their farm.

They even sought permission from a nearby military encampment to visit their abaca farm Tuesday morning, the relatives said.

The military troops of the 3rd SFB led by Captain Aranas and the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have been encamping in the community of Manluy-a for several months and had established a military detachment in a civilian community called Kilometer 18.

The relatives also bewailed the state of the cadavers when fetched from the funeral parlor, saying Angel’s face is unrecognizable from its numerous bullet wounds.

The cadavers were also haphazardly wrapped in plastic and packaging tape, they added.

“The perpetrators are mad killers, with clearly no respect to life and rights. They look at the Lumad people like hunted prey, lying to their teeth and falsely tagging the victims as members of the New People’s Army (NPA),” Palabay fumed.

June 15’s incident is the second massacre in Barangay Diatagon since Lumad-Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo of MAPASU and Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), were killed by Magahat-Bagani paramilitary men on September 1, 2015.

The paramilitaries were then under the command of the 36th and 75th infantry battalions of the Philippine Army who were also nearby when the first massacre happened.

The earlier massacre set off evacuations from Lumad communities, with 3,000 individuals seeking refuge in Tandag City that lasted months.

No charges were filed against the perpetrators of the first Lianga Massacre, which coincidentally happened on the last year of the previous Benigno Aquino government.

‘Mass killing’

Karapatan said 121 civilians, mostly farmers and indigenous peoples, have been killed in 25 massacres in the five years of the Duterte government:

  1. Sumilao, Bukidnon;
  2. Palayan, Nueva Ecija;
  3. Masbate City, Masbate;
  4. Cawayan, Masbate;
  5. Mobo, Masbate;
  6. Mandaon, Masbate
  7. San Nicolas, Pangasinan;
  8. Silay, Negros Occidental
  9. Gubat, Sorsogon;
  10. Bulan towns, Sorsogon;
  11. Lake Sebu, South Cotabato;
  12. Polomolok, South Cotabato;
  13. Siaton, Negros Oriental;
  14. Bato, Camarines Sur;
  15. Ragay, Camarines Sur;
  16. Matalam, Cotabato;
  17. Antique;
  18. Patikul, Sulu;
  19. Baguio City;
  20. Polomok, South Cotabato;
  21. Kabacan, North Cotabato;
  22. Baras, Rizal;
  23. Capiz;
  24. Sta. Rosa, Laguna; and
  25. Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

“These killings should be met with all the strongest condemnation possible from different sectors. Justice for Angel Rivas, Willy Rodriguez, and Lenie Rivas!” Palabay said.

Meanwhile, indigenous peoples’ rights advocates held an indignation rally in front of the Commission on Human Rights in Quezon City on Thursday evening, June 17, to condemn the latest massacre.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)

LIANGA MASSACRE 2: Karapatan reports military killed 3 Lumad-Manobo

The military massacred three Lumad-Manobo in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on Tuesday, June 15, regional human rights group Karapatan-Caraga said.

In an alert, the group said Philippine Army 3rd Special Forces Battalion troopers indiscriminately fired at a group of farmers, killing Willy Rodriquez, Lenie Rivas and Angel Rivas in Sitio Panukmoan, Barangay Diatagon.

Angel was 12 years old and a Grade 6 student of the Lumad school Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur while Willy and Lenie were members of the Lumad organization Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU).

Karapatan Caraga said the victims and other farmers were harvesting abaca hemp at their farm when killed by government soldiers at about one o’clock in the afternoon.

Relatives told Karapatan Caraga that the group earlier asked permission from the military before going to the farm.

The soldiers reportedly brought the bodies of the three victims to their brigade headquarters at St. Christine, Lianga.

They troopers later claimed the victims were members of the New People’s Army.

Karapatan Caraga said the 3rd SFB, led by a certain Captain Aranas, as well as the 48th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have encamped in the community of Manluy-a for several months.

They also established a military detachment in a civilian community called Kilometer 18 in the said town.

Tuesday’s incident was the second massacre to have happened in Barangay Diatagon.

In September 1, 2015, Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo of MAPASU, and Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev) were killed by Magahat-Bagani men.

The Magahat-Bagani were then under the command of 36th and 75th infantry battalions of the Philippine Army who were also nearby when the first massacre happened.

The killings set off evacuations from Lumad communities, with 3,000 individuals seeking refuge in Tandag City that lasted months.

No charges were filed against the perpetrators of the first Lianga Massacre. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Bicol NDF says Masbate ‘clash’ another police canard

The group said the three massacre victims were civilians and not communist guerrillas.

The National Democratic Front in the Bicol Region (NDF-Bikol) denied a clash happened between the New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces in Masbate last June 8 that the Philippine National Police (PNP) claimed resulted in the death of three communist guerrillas.

The three victims were civilians who were abducted and later killed by troops of the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (PA) and the provincial police, NDF-Bikol spokesperson Ma. Roja Banua said in statements.

In a June 9 statement, Banua said the government troops indiscriminately fired their guns from four to eight o’clock Tuesday morning and abducted farmers Ramon ‘Boy’ Valenzuela Brioso of Sitio Mabuaya, Matiporon, Milagros; Antonio ‘Tony’ Polegrantes of Barangay Hermosa, Cawayan; and Ailyn ‘Eket’ Bulalacao Gracio of Sitio Bantolinao, Barangay Amutag, Aroroy.

Brioso, 58 years old, was chief cowboy of 7R Ranch while Polegrantes was barangay Hermosa chief tanod, Banua said in another statement today.

PNP-Bicol claimed the three were NPA guerrillas who were part of the group behind the bomb blast that killed footballer Keith Absalon and his cousin Nolven on June 6 in Masbate City.

Bicol regional police spokesperson Maj. Maria Luisa Calubaquib claimed a firefight happened between 30 suspected NPA fighters and a PNP-PA composite team in Barangay Anas, Masbate City at 5:30 a.m. last Tuesday.

The government troopers were reportedly serving an arrest warrant to murder suspect Arnold Rosero the police said may be the leader of the group who detonated the bomb that killed the Absalons.

The police added that the bodies of three dead were found at the clash site after the 15-minute firefight.

The PA for its part claimed guns, ammunition and bomb parts were found near the clash site.

Philippine Army 9th Infantry Division public affairs chief Capt. John Paul Belleza claimed government soldiers found 14 M16 rifles, an M653 rifle, an M14 rifle, bullets, tents and bomb parts in a nipa hut at the boundary of barangays Anas and Bolo.

Banua however denied a clash happened between the NPA’s Jose Rapsing Command and the government troops last Tuesday.

“The police must be drunk from gunpowder-induced illusions when it claimed they confiscated 17 firearms, command-detonated explosives and other war materiel from a made-up clash,” Banua said.

The NDF spokesperson also revealed that the Masbate Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC) had already repeatedly announced Rosero killed in various clashes in the past years.

The latest claim by the local police was issued to please newly-appointed PNP chief Guillermo Eleazar, Banua said.

“In their haste to take advantage of the NPA’s humble admission of its mistake (in the Absalons’ deaths), they are telling a multitude of lies that are easily disproven. They will also personally benefit from the reward monies they are sure to claim from the national TF-ELCAC,” Banua added.

NDF-Bikol challenged investigating groups to look into how the government’s anti-communist task force is taking advantage of the Absalon family’s grief as well as the death of the three “farmer-civilians.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NPA ambushes gov’t troops in Tumandok Massacre; CPP hails ‘partial justice’

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) hailed as “partial justice” the New People’s Army’s (NPA) ambush of a Philippine Army (PA) unit it said was involved in the massacre of nine Tumandok in Panay Island late last year.

Five soldiers of the 61st Infantry Battalion of the PA were reportedly killed in an ambush by Mt. Napulak Command of the NPA in Sitio Anoy, Barangay Cabalaunan, Miag-ao, Iloilo on May 15 at 10 o’clock AM.

“This is in partial fulfillment of the vow to exact justice for the Tumandok people and other victims of the crimes perpetrated by the 61st IB and other units of the AFP,” CPP chief information officer Marco Valbuena said in a statement.

The CPP earlier called on the NPA to avenge the victims of the massacre that killed nine Tumandok tribes people and arrested several others.

The victims of the Tumandok Massacre opposed the Jalaur Mega Dam Project that threatens to inundate vast areas of their ancestral domain.

READ: Gov’t troops massacre 9 Tumandok in Panay

“It is also a retribution for the killing of peasant leader John Farochilin killed last year by elements of the 61st IB in the same area,” Valbuena added.

The CPP spokesperson said five government troopers were killed in the ambush while five others were wounded.

Valbuena said among the initially wounded was a certain Staff Sgt. Antot who later on died in a local hospital.

In an earlier announcement, however, NPA Panay Regional Operation Command spokesperson Julio Montana said as the number of government troopers killed may be as many as eight.

“Five were killed in the actual firefight while three were wounded who we later learned died in the hospital. The casualties were taken by two helicopters after reinforcements have cleared the area,” Montana said.

“On the part of the NPA, its fighters safely retreated a few minutes after the firefight began,” he added.

NPA fighters in a ceremonial parade. (CPP photo)

PA denies number of casualties

In a local radio interview, however, PA 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson Maj. Cenon Pancito denied the NPA report and said only one government soldier was wounded in what he claimed was an “encounter”.

Capt. Ferdinand De Vera, 61st IB Civil Military Operations Officer, in a press release said the soldier was taken to a hospital in Iloilo city and is in stable condition.

He said the elements of the 61IB responded to the information given by the residents on the presence of “suspicious individuals.”

Col. Joel Benedict Batara, 61st IB commander also denied the incident was an ambush but an encounter that happened when his troops responded to information of NPA presence in the area.

The 61st IBPA is headquartered at Miag-Ao.

Valbuena however chided Batara for denying the PA casualties.

“What kind of arrogant officer is he who cannot give recognition to men who died under his command, Valbuena asked.

The CPP spokesperson said Miag-ao residents posted on their social media accounts that the military was flying helicopters in the area after the firefight, likely to secretly ferry casualties away. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Group appeals for release of detainee who recently gave birth

Another political prisoner gave birth and a support group appealed for her freedom to take care of her newborn.

Elizabeth Estilon was taken from the Sorsogon City District Jail to a hospital last March 27 and gave birth to a baby boy, political detainee support group Kapatid said.

Kapatid appealed for Estilon’s release to allow her to take care of her newborn.

“We appeal for compassion for Elizabeth Estilon and her newborn as our country observes Holy Week which is about compassion, fairness and mercy. Drop the false charges against her. Let her take care of her infant outside the confines of the country’s densely crowded prisons to give her child a better chance of survival,” Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said.

“But time is of the essence to keep Elizabeth and her baby together during a health crisis that brings the worst threats to one’s life,” she added.

Right after childbirth, mothers need to breastfeed their infants as breast milk provides unsurpassed natural immunity and nutrition unavailable in artificial milk supplements, which can in fact be harmful to infant health, Lim’s group explained.

Kapatid recalled the recent deaths of babies of political prisoners Reina Mae Nasino and Nona Espinosa as dire reminders.

Nasino gave birth to an underweight River on July 1, 2020 but the baby got sick in September and died on October 9 at the Philippine General Hospital from acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Last February 14, Carlen died of an infection in the lungs and blood, around three days after being separated from her mother, political prisoner Nona Espinosa who is held at the Guihulngan City Jail in Negros Oriental.

Elizabeth Estilon at her arrest. (Photo from Karapatan)

Lim reminded authorities of Republic Act 11148 or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act, which stresses the critical window of opportunity to prevent malnutrition and its lifelong consequences.

 “We ask prison and government authorities to respect domestic and international laws, which provide that prisoners who gave birth have the right to take care of their child,” Lim said.

Estilon was arrested with 62-year-old Enriqueta Guelas in Barangay Lalod, Bulusan, Sorsogon last December 24, 2020 after being red-tagged by the military as New People’s Army rebels.

Karapatan-Sorsogon reported that a day prior to their arrest, members of the 31st and 22nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army searched the house where Estilon and Guelas were staying but saw nothing except for household things.

The following day, the residents were shocked after the military placed a bag on a table containing firearms, wires and explosives, which the military claimed they found inside the house, Karapatan said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)