(Statement on the commemoration of the EDSA 1 Revolution and the current human rights violations in the region)
It has been 30 years after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship, yet not much has changed for the people.
Human rights continue to plague lumads, peasants, agri-workers especially in Southern Mindanao where 57 defenders against mining, plantations and militarization here have been killed by suspected state forces. Seven of them were killed in 30 days from January to February.
Sectors such as church people, students, professionals, and others are under assault by fascist state forces, who label this enraged population as threats to national security.They display their sickening brutality with trumped-up charges against leaders of people’s organizations.
For them, if they cannot silence the defenders, they might as well burden them with legal actions, thus bastardizing the legal system and mock our democratic rights as a people.
In the past six years, Southern Mindanao has seen the increase of six battalions deployed to the region, along with even more sickening tactics to quash the people’s defiance. The recent torching incident in the lumad evacuation camp in UCCP Haran and the military attacks in Sitio Diat, Post Four, Brgy. Napnapan in Compostela Valley show how savage the Aquino regime is.
The dark days of Martial Law may be over, but the sickening rule of the military over the countrysides and the attack on our legal democratic rights show that the abuses of the state continue to haunt us.
But where there is oppression, it breeds resistance. Where the attacks and plunder continue, so does the peoples’ movement grow. Everyday more Filipinos are awakened to the horrors of state fascism, to the corruption in government, and ineptness over the many ills in society.
The communities in Southern Mindanao may see zones of military rule and plunder from mining and plantations. But more are taking on these tyrants in the streets and in their own land. The people’s continuing resistance will show that democracy and human rights are superior over the desperate attempts of the regime to silence dissent.
The people of Southern Mindanao do not forget the dark days of Martial Law, for they are living in the same worse conditions under the yellow skies of the Aquino. And so, the resistance continues. We survived Marcos’ Martial Law. We will do so again in Aquino’s regime.
The military is lying over the child-warrior story and is responsible for the killing of a miner in an operation in Pantukan, Compostela Valley. This was revealed by the national humanitarian mission after a two-day probe on the area.
The mission, composed of 100 participants coming from Davao, Manila and other parts of Davao Region, documented testimonies from villagers in Post Four, Barangay Napnapan accusing the 46th Infantry Battalion for the killing of small-scale miner Ronel Paas and the wounding of a 14-year old boy in the area.
“This is a clear testament that the people are resolved to bring justice will overwhelm the efforts of these military lapdogs to prevent the truth from being known,” said Hanimay Suazo, secretary-general of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao, the lead group of the mission.
Suazo said the military covered up the incidents by claiming Paas and the boy were members of the revolutionary group New People’s Army.
She said the incident dampens the 30th EDSA People Power commemoration Thursday as ‘Martial Law’ style terror in the rural areas continue.
“It is saddening that as we commemorate the 30th year of EDSA People Power, this supposed occasion of celebrating freedom is eclipsed with denial of human rights by state forces. Militarization has only increased decades after the Martial Law, in the regime of a freedom fighter’s son,” Suazo lamented.
She said the mission uncovered the attacks against the community was due to their strong resistance against mining multinational St. Augustine Copper and Gold Ltd – Nadecor.
The group also assailed the burning of the Manobo evacuee shelter and student dormitory in UCCP Haran on Wednesday as incidents similar to Martial Law were communities come under attack.
Suazo also assailed the harassment of the military on the mission. She said soldiers in civilian clothes were seen in the community, standing guard near houses and barangay offices.
“We were able to push through with our mission despite the glaring presence of military personnel, who were outrageously clad in civilian clothes and standing guard near civilian structures,” Suazo said.
She also condemned the harassment the mission convoy experienced going back to Davao, as they were held by three military checkpoints set up by the 46th IB, 71st IB, 57th IB and 72nd IB.
“We were held for more than five minutes at each checkpoint. We see no other motive for such checkpoints, except for the intent of the military to harass and intimidate the missioners, and further delay the finalization of the investigation. Only monsters hiding their own bloody trail would do such a thing,” Suazo claimed.
Karapatan urges the government and the next president to stop adopting the IPSP Bayanihan counterinsurgency as it drives off and attacks civilian farmers and lumads.
DAVAO CITY- Human rights group Karapatan-SMR conducted a fact-finding mission today to Sitio Diat, Post Four, Brgy. Napnapan, Pantukan Compostela Valley.
Hanimay Suazo, secretary-general of Karapatan-SMR, said that they have delegates from all over the country, and massed up with local organizations of peasants and small-scale miners in Pantukan.
According to Suazo, over 500 individuals from all over the country have come together for the mission.
“The spike of extra-judicial killings by the military has made it necessary to mobilize this much people, in order for us to show the urgent pressure by the public to ascertain the details of the human rights violations in Pantukan,” Suazo said.
Suazo also said that the participants of the mission echo the calls for the end foreign large-scale mining in the municipality.
“It can be recalled that NADECOR- St. Augustine Services, Inc. has just been granted permission to operate in Pantukan this month. We believe that there is a link between the local resistance movement against the impending ecological disaster and and displacement brought about by this company,” Suazo claimed.
“Also, that this parallels the increased deployment in the area, explains the recent cases of extra-judicial killings, and the brutal disregard of human rights in general,” she added.
“Through this mission, we are certain that we can finally see for ourselves the situation in the area, which unfortunately had been hamletted by the military in the previous week. We will take proper legal action after we have made our mission report. We are confident that the people of Pantukan are one with us in our goal to providing justice for the victims and protecting the environment.”
It can be recalled that the initial mission into Post Four was ended early due to the staged gunfire by the elements of the 46th IB.
Ronel Paas, 35 years old, was the latest victim of extra-judicial killing in Pantukan. According to reports, he was a small-scale miner who was shot in the chest, after the military fired indiscriminately into the civilian population.
Paas was still alive when he was brought down, but thorough medical aid was delayed, as he was held at a military detachment for over an hour, before the military finally released him.
A 14-year old kid was also hit in the leg during the said indiscriminate firing, and was taken into custody by the 10th ID, PA. Both the child and Paas has since then been labeled as NPA by the military.
DAVAO CITY- Human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao sounded alarm today, over the quick rate of extra-judicial killings in the region and series of other human rights violations by the military.
From January 11 to February 9, seven individuals ranging from peasant leaders to ordinary civilians, were gunned down either by suspected state agents, or men in uniform.
The military have been quick to deny involvement to the killings, or brand the victims as NPA, but Karapatan said otherwise.
“We are here today to expose to the public the dual atrocities of the military: they have killed civilians, and unjustly labeled them as NPA casualties so as to avoid any accountability for their crimes,” said Hanimay Suazo, secretary-general of Karapatan-SMR.
Along with mass leaders from various grassroots organizations, Suazo enumerated the series of extra-judicial killings today, narrating the civilian status of the victims and their participation in actions condemning state fascism and inaction.
“Farmers, anti-mining, activists, and lumad students seem to be the recent appetite of the war monster that is the Oplan Bayanihan,” Suazo lamented.
Suazo cites the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan as the blueprint “to exterminate the people’s resistance,” saying that its people-centric approach made certain the death of ordinary Filipinos.
“By borrowing the ‘people-centered’ approach from the US counterinsurgency guide, the mercenary AFP has made progressive organizations and innocent civilians its primary target. The presence of the NPA is mere pretext to legitimizing their operations in the countryside,” Suazo claimed.
Despite the “terror sowed by military”, Suazo asserted that peoples’ movements “remain undeterred, even more emboldened.”
“The corpses are piling up, but so is the rage, unity, and realization amongst the people that the only way to end the killings is to stand up for their rights and struggle against the Aquino regime, the ultimate killer of the Filipino people,” Suazo said.
TAGUM CITY- Karapatan – Southern Mindanao decried the staged “sniping and gunfire” Thursday of the Army’s 46th Infantry Battalion that prevented their team from conducting a humanitarian mission in Brgy. Napnapan, Pantukan, Compostela Valley.
Hanimay Suazo, Karapatan secretary-general, said that around 30 missioners went on this mission coordinated with local officials to check on incidents of indiscriminate firing by the 46th IB that killed one civilian and wounded three others. But they were barred by the soldiers on a checkpoint.
“We arrived by 2:30 pm at the checkpoint made by the 46th IB around 200 meters from the community. They kept on repeating the area was not safe for our entry,” Suazo said.
After that, they heard three shots in the vicinity. “We heard three loud shots. Some of us stooped down for cover, but we were surprised to see the military standing their ground, like nothing happened.”
“It was in the second volley of shots that they told us to take cover by the side of the road, repeatedly saying that we would not be in danger.
After that, more shots followed and a certain “Fernandez” from the 46th IB told us that he could not vouch for our safety if we pushed through, in a pretentious tone,” Suazo said.
Suazo said that the scenario was dubious one, as the soldiers did not stay alert to protect them or engage the direction where the shots were fired. ”
“There were several shots, about eight of them, yet they seemed not to be concerned. They did not react where the shots came from. It was really meant to harass our team from entering the militarized community.”
She even saw a soldier with a machine gun laying on a tree.
“Either it was staged, or they are just imbeciles who forgot who to conduct combat and protect civilians, or it could be both,” she quipped.
She said sound of gunfire were muffled and were uphill near the peace mission contingents.
Suazo said that they did not continue to enter the community, but clarified that the reason was because they might be hit by the 46th IB just as what happened to residents in Napnapan.
“We cut short our mission owing to the possibility that we could be strafed by the 46th IB and charged us as collateral damage or, worst case scenario, tagged us NPA rebels. They had done it just this week, with Ronel Paas, a smallscale miner whom they shot and killed, and maimed 14-year-old-boy, a gold flusher.
Both were branded as NPAs,” Suazo clarified.
But she said their experience was able to expose the nature of the 46th IB as deceptive and trigger-happy. She said “the presence of the military in the area only goes to show that the community is being hamletted by the military. Instead of going after the NPA, they are staying in civilian structures, using the people around as shields.”
“The real danger in Post Four is not the alleged presence of the NPA, but the gross disrespect for human rights of the 46th IB, as seen in this mock gunfire incident. By such nature they are terrorizing people in the area, thus displacing them in order for largescale mining companies to plunder the livelihood of the small-scale miners, the farmers and the lumads in the area,” she added.
Karapatan demands the pullout of the 46th IB and hold those personnel accountable for the killing of Paas and wounding of three other civilians.
TAGUM CITY- Human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao condemned the three recent cases of extra-judicial killings in the region, happening in a span of a week.
Alejandro Laya-og, 36 years old, a motorcycle driver from Maragusan, was gunned down last Sunday, February 7, 2016, at around 6pm. Laya-og was at the terminal in Brgy. Poblacion, Municipality of Maragusan, Compostela Valley Province, when an unidentified armed man shot him once in the back. The man then turned him over, fired one more time, hitting him in the head.
Laya-og was a member of the Kahugpungan sa Mag-uuma sa Magcagong (KAMAMA, Organization of Farmers in Magcagong), a farmer’s group criticizing the militarization in Maragusan and promoting farmers’ welfare. Laya-og also helped in the construction of lumad community school, Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) in the area as requested by their local organization.
According to Laya-og’s wife, her husband already mentioned that men from the 25th IB had summoned him before and accused him as supporter of New People’s Army (NPA). Her husband mentioned three days before he was killed that he was being followed by suspicious looking men.
On February 9, Tuesday at noon time, Jennifer Albacite, on her mid-40s, was gunned down by still unknown individuals at Brgy. Poblacion, Compostela, Compostela Valley Province.
Companions of Albacite surmise that it was her sister, Jeannirose Porras, a staff of the Compostela Farmers’ Association (CFA), was the real target of the killing.
Officers and members of CFA has been red-tagged by 66th and 67th IBPA due to their opposition against the entry of Agusan Petroleum Mining Company (AgPet) and AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency campaign, which has been targeting civilians and human rights defenders.
Around 3 pm of the same date, Ronel Paas, 35, a small-scale miner in Sitio Diat, Post Four, Brgy. Napnapan, Pantukan, Compostela Valley, was hit by a bullet in the chest after elements of the 46th IB went on an indiscriminate firing spree.
According to residents in the area, the 46th IB fired M203 grenades and bullets towards the civilian population, after failing to go after the NPA in the area.
Paas managed to survive his gunshot wound, but was held at the military detachment in Brgy. Tibagon, Pantukan, Compostela Valley. He was detained for an hour, and was finally released after his kin and co-workers presented ID’s confirming his civilian identity.
According to Paas’ wife, her husband was still alive at the military detachment, even pinching the men carrying him to hospital, weakly telling them to hurry up.
Two other casualties in the said area was a 14 year old boy, who was hit in the leg, and a woman who sustained a bullet in the chest. The location of the woman is kept confidential for the time being, while the boy was taken by the military to Camp Panacan in Davao City, then branded as NPA child warrior
Hanimay Suazo, secretary-general of Karapatan-SMR, condemned the rapid killings of civilians and progressive leaders.
“In Southern Mindanao, it’s countdown to genocide for mass leaders and civilians, as armed forces of the state continue to militarize rural areas”
Suazo claimed that most of the recent cases of extra-judicial killings were either “supporters of the alternative schools, opposition to foreign large-scale mining, and critics of the Oplan Bayanihan.”
Suazo added many civilians in Sitio Diat, Post-4 could readily attest to the civilian status of Paas and the 14 year old boy, while “only the military can parrot and believe their contrived truths that these men were NPA members. 10th IDPA-Eastern Mindanao Command is a pathological liar. They are branding civilians as NPAs in order to escape criminal liability which explains the worsening state of impunity in the Philippines.”
Suazo belied the claims of the military that they had no hand in the killing of Teresita Navacilla and frustrated murder on Alexander Josol, with the recent civilian injuries, illegal arrests and deaths in Pantukan.
“These killings in Pantukan add strength to our claim that the 46th IB is out to displace civilian communities, to pave way for large-scale mining in the area.”
According to Karapatan-SMR, there are already 57 victims of extra-judicial killings in the region since the BS Aquino regime took office.
“If there’s anything that this country is reminded of, it’s that Oplan Bayanihan is not against the NPA. It’s the state murdering its own people,” she concluded.
DAVAO CITY- In reply to the military’s claims and legal threats, human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao bared victims and witnesses to human rights violations they have recorded last January.
In a press conference, victims of physical assaults by the 46th IB in Sitio Lugpaton, Brgy. Kingking, Pantukan Compostela Valley narrated how they were helplessly kicked and beaten around during the combat operations of the said AFP unit last January 18.
Some women, also from the same area, recounted how their homes were violently entered by the military. According to them, their belongings were either sacked or destroyed.
Hanimay Suazo, secretary-general of Karapatan-SMR, said that they are going to take legal action against the military elements involved in the human rights violations.
“We will not let this pass. The victims are here today to declare their intent to press charges. We have names of those involved in the physical assault and violation of domicile. We will make sure that accountability is exacted for the victims of human rights violations,” she said.
Asked regarding the claim of the military that the recent killing of anti-mining activist Teresita Navacilla was due to conflicts arising from debts, Suazo replied that “it is the tactic of the AFP to depoliticize extra-judicial killings, in order to hide the larger issues of environmental plunder and people’s resistance, which they have been paid to put down.”
“The killing of the lumad student Alibando Tingkas was claimed to be a product of tribal war. This was to neutralize the fact that it is the AFP-backed Alamara that did the killing, so as to terrify the Talaingod Manobo into conceding their protection of their ancestral lands,” she added.
“In the case of Navacilla, her death was branded as mere financial trouble. While Alex Josol’s frustrated killing incident on January 28 was trivialized as a vehicular accident, to cover up the crime and for the perpetrators get away with impunity. In reality, Navacilla’s death and Josol’s assassination plot were due to their stance against mining and militarization. Once again, the AFP is clouding the issue with trivialities so as to blind the public about the real plight of the lumad and peasants,” she claimed.
Suazo said the “red-baiting” of the AFP against KARAPATAN is meant to discredit our organization, due to the broad public gained after last year’s Manilakbayan for victims of human rights violations.
“Their true nature had been exposed. The people will not be fooled. No one else is set to gain from the military’s statements but the mining corporations out to displace lumads and peasants from their lands,” Suazo asserted.
“Furthermore, the manner and pattern of killings are same: riding-in-tandem assassins, targeting leaders of progressive organizations.”
“The AFP is fooling no one else but its own fascist elements and the cronies of the anti-people and anti-lumad Aquino regime,” Suazo concluded.