Farmers in Comval strafed, arrested in last 30 days of Oplan Bayanihan

STRAFED AND GRAZED Aladen Rosquitos shows the scratches on the top of his head, after crawling far to evade the hour-long strafing of the military to their house. He says that elements of the 60th IB strafed his home. In the last days of Oplan Bayanihan, state violence rages on.
STRAFED AND GRAZED Aladen Rosquitos shows the scratches on the top of his head, after crawling far to evade the hour-long strafing of the military to their house. He says that elements of the 60th IB strafed his home. In the last days of Oplan Bayanihan, state violence rages on. (Photo by Lam Banuag, Karapatan – SMR)

DAVAO CITY- With less than a month before the Aquino regime steps down from power, farmers in Compostela Valley reported human rights violations committed against them.

Karapatan – Southern Mindanao reports two farmers and their families survived a strafing incident committed by military elements in Brgy. Kapatagan, Laak, Compostela Valley, last June 2.

In another incident, a peasant was illegally arrested in Mawab and, was slapped with trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms last June 1.

Surviving the strafing were Aladen Etol Rosquitos and Randy Rosquitos, who managed to escape the shooting spree by alleged elements of the 60th IB, who fired at their houses at around 4:30 am.

According to Randy, he saw around 25 armed men in camouflage uniforms about 30 meters away from their home, whom he heard whispering before they started strafing their houses.

Randy and Aladen claim that it was their cousin, Marlon Rosquitos Samson, who was behind the attack to their life.

According to the two, Marlon is a thief with cases reported in Sawata Police Station, San Isidro, Laak, and also served as a guide for the 60th IB in counter-insurgency operations. Farmers said they heard soldiers tell Marlon that he would be accepted as a regular soldier if he could help capture a New People’s Army leader.

Two other farmers, Nikomedes Tapilot and Romar Zamora, were also illegally held and interrogated by the 60th IB troops that day. Soldiers took their pictures and confiscated their chickens.

Soldiers took Randy’s backpack, cellphone and hammocks claiming these belonged to the NPA whom they engaged in a firefight.

Randy and Aladen said they felt fear after hearing threats that eight farmers would be killed after the murder of Paul Saludaga, another member of the Farmers’ Association in Compostela.

Meanwhile, Leonardo Wamilda, 33, leader of Mawab Farmers’ Association, was taken away by elements of the CIDT-SOU, and detained at the police station in Mawab, before he was brought to the Nabunturan Municipal Police Station and charged with violation of RA 10591.

Wamilda was a barangay tanod in their area, and a member of the Mawab Farmers’ Association.

Karapatan said that the arrest of Wamilda shows the continuing attacks against members of progressive organizations in the countryside.

“From start to finish, the Aquino regime is untiring in sowing terror and violating human rights of the people. There is no let-up on the AFP’s and police’s fascist operations that make mockery of the law and unjustly put civilians behind bars,” Karapatan said in a statement.

“It is further disgusting that the AFP is using criminals as its accomplices, and provide them with impunity in return for the services they render in the course of military operations that make no distinction between combatants and civilians,” it added.

“Clearly, Aquino and the AFP are eager to rack up their achievements before the current administration’s term ends. That means civilians are targeted for attacks, then branded as NPA’s, just so the military can list something in their statistics”.

Karapatan challenged the incoming Duterte presidency to end illegal arrests, drop trumped up charges against members of progressive organizations, and end militarization in the countryside.

 

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Army officials not off the hook on torture, says HR group

EVANGELISTA BATCHAR

DAVAO CITY- Don’t just arrest the Cafgus, but the Army officials as well.

This is what the human rights group Karapatan said after four Cafgu members were charged for abusing an indigenous farmer in Malita, Davao Occidental last week.

The group said there is accountability from the higher command of the Armed Forces in Mindanao over the incident.

Hanimay Suazo, secretary-general of Karapatan – Southern Mindanao, said the Cafgu were sacrificial lambs.

“These armed auxiliaries and Corporal Batolbatol have become the sacrificial lambs, in order for the 10th Infantry Division to project themselves as an agency who respect human rights. But the truth is, this division must be held accountable as well. They are the ones who placed these elements in the field in the first place,” Suazo said.

“These officers have willingly let loose their dogs which are the paramilitary to prey upon the people. This is not a simple case of lack of oversight; this harassment and physical assault is part of the systematic war against the people, Oplan Bayanihan.” Suazo added.

For this, Suazo reiterates the call to scrap Executive Order 546, the act that legalized the use of armed auxiliaries by the AFP.

Suazo also condemns that cases involving the military have been moving on a slow pace, at worse being dismissed.

“Till now, the cases of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, Roque Antivo, Juvy Capion, and the Paquibato farmers remain bereft of justice, even when the military’s bloody hand into these killings have been established in several occasions,” Suazo said.

She added that aside from hiding away from justice, the AFP is hiding also from issues of corruption based on Commission on Audit reports.

Karapatan urged the local government units and the Commission on Human Rights to stand up for the victims of human rights violations, that they should stay in their mandate to serve the people.

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Military abuse of elderly in Malita scored

POURING WATER A military element from the 72nd IB is pictured here pouring water over the head of Kaido, an elderly farmer in Malita, Davao Occidental. Karapatan-SMR urged government units to take action and bring perpetrators to justice. (Screencap from video posted on MindaNews website)
POURING WATER A military element from the 72nd IB is pictured here pouring water over the head of Kaido, an elderly farmer in Malita, Davao Occidental. Karapatan-SMR urged government units to take action and bring perpetrators to justice. (Screencap from video posted on MindaNews website)

DAVAO CITY –  The human rights group Karapatan Southern Mindanao dares the 10th Infantry Division to punish soldiers and CAFGU members caught on video abusing an old man in Mailta, Davao Occidental.

The video, uploaded on Facebook and on MindaNews, showed an old farmer on his knees while he was being poured water on the head by people identified by MindaNews as members of the Philippine Army’s 72nd Infantry Battalion.

“We condemn in highest terms this inhumane humiliation and injuries inflicted by Corporal Batolbatol and three other soldiers.  Their act show the very rotten nature and disrespect of human rights by the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” said Karapatan SMR Secretary-General Hanimay Suazo.

Suazo added that the soldiers caught on video “are not fit to carry their uniform and arms and call themselves protectors of the people. Which also goes the same with their higher ups who deny and hide their atrocities.”

Reacting on the statement from the 10th ID spokesman that justice will be given on the matter, she stressed that “the guilty should be placed behind bars. Only when they have been relieved of their duties and served punishment will true justice be served.”

Suazo feared that the 10th ID may resort to pressure and pay off the victims’ family to keep the latter from pursuing the case.

“We remember the rape victim by the 68th Infantry Battalion in Bukidnon was given thousands of pesos just to settle their atrocity.  It is a meager amount compared to the trauma and indignity she encountered in her rapists’ hands,” exclaimed Suazo.

Suazo said these incidents exposes the reality of the AFP’s peace and development programs are a sham with abuses happening.

“Contrary to its claims of peace and development under Oplan Bayanihan, it is state brutality at its worst against elderly, children, and women. The AFP does not discern or choose who they want to victimize,” she said.

Suazo also asks the local government of Malita to act and protect the victims and other farmers from the military.

 

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Women defenders, lumads targets of military abuse

DANCE AGAINST MILITARIZATION Over 500 women joined in the International Women's Day celebration in the Rizal Park to call for an end to militarization in the region (Photo by Lam Banuag, Karapatan-SMR)
DANCE AGAINST MILITARIZATION Over 500 women joined in the International Women’s Day celebration in the Rizal Park to call for an end to militarization in the region (Photo by Lam Banuag, Karapatan-SMR)

DAVAO CITY  – Women rights advocates here celebrate International Women’s Day with dance and protests against the military attacks against women lumad and human rights defenders in Davao Region.

The human rights alliance Karapatan Southern Mindanao led a rally attended by 500 people in Freedom Park to address military attacks against lumad communities in the hinterlands of Davao.

They noted that majority of the 700 Manobos evacuees from Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte and from Kitaotao, Bukidnon now staying in UCCP Haran in Davao City are women, some of them giving birth in difficult conditions in Haran.

“Childbearing becomes more difficult for them since they are not in an environment they are comfortable and familiar with,” says Karapatan Southern Mindanao Secretary General Hanimay Suazo.

But Suazo said the worse atrocity committed by soldiers was the rape of a lumad mother in Bukidnon in 2014.

Suazo said the military soldier accused of the rap has yet to face charges and remains with his unit. “Private First Class Beni

DANCE AGAINST MILITARIZATION Over 500 women joined in the International Women's Day celebration in the Rizal Park to call for an end to militarization in the region (Photo by Lam Banuag, Karapatan-SMR)
DANCE AGAINST MILITARIZATION Over 500 women joined in the International Women’s Day celebration in the Rizal Park to call for an end to militarization in the region (Photo by Lam Banuag, Karapatan-SMR)

ie Blancada has yet to manifest his presence against any legal body. Blancada is the suspect of a rape of a mother in Bukidnon last 2014,” said Sauzo.

Suazo slammed the Army’s 10th Infantry Division for failing to bring Blancada to courts.

“We stand that the AFP, particularly the 10th ID, is coddling these rapists to prevent further tainting of their already untrusted image. If it was earnest in pursuing justice, it would have mobilized all its elements to purge criminals among its ranks. But that would be impossible, given that the current counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan makes the AFP prime perpetrators of human rights violations,” Suazo said.

Women defenders such as Suazo are also facing harassment in the form of trumped-up charges to discourage their advocacies.

“My work as human rights defender has placed me at the crosshairs of the military, both in legal and armed aspects,” Suazo said.

Other advocates facing cases include Sheena Duazo, secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayang Southern Mindanao, and Malaya Genotiva of Anakbayan SMR.

“These baseless charges were made to discourage these women from pursuing their progressive cause, particularly in helping the lumad evacuees in the region,” Suazo said.

She also noted that 26 out of 107 activists facing trumped up cases are women. Of the 69 political prisoners in the country, four are women. Nine of 57 victims of extrajudicial killings are women.

“But far from being deterred, the more emboldened these women have become to fight the deceitful and anti-people nature of the military and the Aquino government,” Suazo said.

“The attacks against us are just small compared to the communities facing assault from militarization, or from mining and plantations plundering their land.  This is part of our commitment to pursue justice and rights for all,” Suazo said.

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PRESS RELEASE

CONTACT PERSON: HANIMAY SUAZO

SECRETARY-GENERAL, KARAPATAN-SMR

Pantukan probe confirms boy was a civilian, other military atrocities noted

RECONSTRUCTING A fellow miner recounts how Ronel Paas took cover in nearby ball-mill equipment before a bullet plunged his chest. Human rights group Karapatan-SMR claims that Paas was a small-scale miner and a civilian, contrary to the branding by the military that he was an NPA (Photo by Ilyas Rondag)
RECONSTRUCTING A fellow miner recounts how Ronel Paas took cover in nearby ball-mill equipment before a bullet plunged his chest. Human rights group Karapatan-SMR claims that Paas was a small-scale miner and a civilian, contrary to the branding by the military that he was an NPA (Photo by Ilyas Rondag)

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.

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“People-centered approach indeed, as civilians killed, not the NPA”- Karapatan Southern Mindanao

REAL OBJECTIVES Missioners for a humanitarian-peace mission in Sitio Diat Post 4, Brgy. Tagdangua, Pantukan Compostela Valley inspected by elements of the 46th IB. Karapatan claims that the real targets of the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan are the civilian populations, not the NPA (Photo by Samuel dela Cruz)
REAL TARGETS Missioners for a humanitarian-peace mission for Sitio Diat Post 4, Brgy. Tagdangua, Pantukan Compostela Valley inspected by elements of the 46th IB in a checkpoint in Brgy. Tibagon. Karapatan claims that the real targets of the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan are the civilian populations, not the NPA (Photo by Samuel dela Cruz)

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.

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PRESS RELEASE

KARAPATAN-SOUTHERN MINDANAO REGION

CONTACT PERSON: HANIMAY SUAZO

0932-198-6728

Army stages ‘gunfire’ to bar HR group from humanitarian mission

DSC05511
SNIPER ALERT? A machine-gun wielding soldier from the 46th IB casually leans on a tree and takes cover through the leaves as sniper fire comes from his left side. Karapatan-SMR staff were barred from entering Sitio Diat, Post Four, Brgy. Tibagon, Pantukan Compostela Valley, due to the staged firing incident by the said military unit. (Photo by Kim Nguyen, Karapatan SMR)

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.

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Bloody pre-valentine season in Davao, as three killed

 

RAGE AND GRIEF Wife of Romel Paas shrieks at the foot of her husband, now a corpse after sustaining a gunshot wound to the chest. Paas was detained for over an hour at a military detachment in Brgy. Tibagon, Pantukan Compostela Valley, before he was permitted by the 46th IB to ride an ambulance. He was declared dead-on-arrival in the hospital. (Photo by Lam Banuag, Karapatan-SMR)
RAGE AND GRIEF Wife of Romel Paas shrieks at the foot of her husband, now a corpse after sustaining a gunshot wound to the chest. Paas was detained for over an hour at a military detachment in Brgy. Tibagon, Pantukan Compostela Valley, before he was permitted by the 46th IB to ride an ambulance. He was declared dead-on-arrival in the hospital. (Photo by Lam Banuag, Karapatan-SMR)

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.

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PRESS RELEASE

February 10, 2016

KARAPATAN-SOUTHERN MINDANAO

CONTACT PERSON: HANIMAY SUAZO, SECRETARY-GENERAL

09321986728

HR victims back Karapatan claims; say they will file charges

DEFIANT Victims of human rights violations by the 46th IB, along with friends and family of the slain Ricky Penaranda and Christopher Matibay, raise their fists with Hanimay Suazo, secretary-general of Karapatan-SMR. The group said they will take legal action regarding the violations of the military (Photo by Emisa Toledo, Karapatan-SMR)
DEFIANT Victims of human rights violations by the 46th IB, along with friends and family of the slain Ricky Penaranda and Christopher Matibay, raise their fists with Hanimay Suazo, secretary-general of Karapatan-SMR. The group said they will take legal action regarding the violations of the military (Photo by Emisa Toledo, Karapatan-SMR)

 

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.

 

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Karapatan staff tailed by army intelligence

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HUMAN RIGHTS THREAT A suspected intelligence agent sits beside one of the Karapatan-SMR staff, then covered his mouth, as if to relay information on his observations (Photo by Hanimay Suazo)

DAVAO CITY- Human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao condemned the surveillance on them by suspected military intelligence forces.

Hanimay Suazo, secretary-general of Karapatan-SMR, said that the incident took place when she and three other staff members were meeting in a fast food center in Maa in the morning of January 30, a military intelligence sat on the table next to them.

Suazo identified the person of heavy built and was wearing camouflage trousers and eyes covered with sunglasses.

“The man was wearing shades, but it was obvious that he kept staring at us every now and then,” Suazo said.

“One of our staff recognized him as one of the intelligence agents present at Rivera Funeral Homes when they helped claim the body of NPA commander Leoncio “Parago” Pitao,” she added.

SEEN AGAIN The asset on the left, in red long-sleeves, was recognized by one of the Karapatan staff. His companion on the left is also an intelligence asset who kept taking photos of the family of Leoncio Pitao and the Karapatan staff that went with them. (Photo by Lam Banuag)
SEEN AGAIN The asset on the left, in red long-sleeves, was recognized by one of the Karapatan staff. His companion on the left is also an intelligence asset who kept taking photos of the family of Leoncio Pitao and the Karapatan staff that went with them. (Photo by Lam Banuag)

Suazo said the when the agent finished his meal, he called someone on his mobile phone and covered his mouth during the conversation.  Around this time they noticed another man wearing sunglasses and a cap standing outside the door across their table and was looking at them while texting on his phone.

“We stopped and moved out. But as we were walking, the man who sat beside us immediately called from his phone and covered his mouth once more. While the person outside kept watching us as we rode a taxicab,” Suazo said.

Suazo said with the recent spate of killings in Southern Mindanao this January, the harassment against human rights defenders are bound to happen.

“Our work as human rights defenders have earned us the same ire from the state and corporations who want to plunder our resources and repress our rights,” she said.

But Suazo said that they remain unflinching in their work. “We remain firm with our work to hold the Aquino government accountable for human rights violations and plunder of our natural resources.  We continue to call for the end of militarization and the attacks against human rights defenders,” she said.

Last year, three suspected intelligence agents of the military tried to force their way inside the Karapatan office.

Suazo is also facing trumped-up charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention for helping out the Manobo evacuees currently housed in the Haran compound in Davao City.

 

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