Police arrests peasant leader in Palawan

Human rights violations including a case of killing, illegal arrest and detention against civilians were successively perpetrated by the police and military of the US-Duterte regime in the past two weeks.

Elements of the Philippine National Police arrested Norly Bernabe last February 7, chairperson of the Kalipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid Sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK) in Taytay, Palawan. He is currently detained in Puerto Princesa, Palawan based on trumped-up murder charges. Bernabe is actively campaigning for the rights of farmers in Lupang Pujalte and against the Guevent Corporation.

Killing. In Pangasinan, Robert Mejia, member of Ulopan na Umbaley ed Camp Gregg Military Reservation, an affiliate organization of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas was killed in Barangay Sancagulis, Bayambang, Pangasinan on February 8. Farmers in Camp Gregg have long been struggling for their right to land and against the Cojuangco-Aquinos of the Central Azucarera De Tarlac. Mejia, popularly known as Ka Bobby, participated in collective land cultivation (“bungkalan”) activities in the said area.

In Camarines Sur, 9th IB troopers abducted four civilians in Pulang Daga, Barangay Baya, Ragay on February 9 at around 5:00 a.m. The victims were identified as Christian Rañon, Boboy Esmero, Ricky Bendaña, and Rico Bendaña. Barangay officials and residents trooped to the camp of the said unit to demand the release of the civilians who were beaten and all bloody but to no avail. The group, together with media workers, went to the police to request for assistance in facilitating the release but the latter only referred them back to the 9th IB camp in Barangay Samay. Lt. Col. Abella, commander of the 9th IB, admitted that the civilians were under their custody.

Militarization. The tyrannical style of brutal killings, mass arrests and detention and intensive military operations have become a norm in Mindanao since the declaration of martial law in the island. The like is now also being experienced in Samar and Negros since the implementation of the Memorandum Order No. 32 which effectively placed the said provinces under de facto martial law.

In Samar, more than 200 87th IB troopers have been occupying several barrios in San Jose de Buan since the last week of January. According to Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas, residents are being forcibly interrogated, photographed and made to sign in blank sheets of paper. The 87th IB is also planning to construct a camp 10 meters away from a school. The military is intending to use the residents as their shield in mounting their operations which is a blatant violation of the International Humanitarian Law.

The militarization of San Jose de Buan followed the pull out of the 63rd IB in Barangay Bay-ang in San Jorge, Samar. Residents of the said barangay were forced to evacuate due to military’s indiscriminate strafing and bombings in their community.

The 87th IB has long been camping in Barangay Cantato in Paranas and conducting combat operations in the barrios of Angase, Sto. Niño, Pagsanghan and Tapul. These operations terrorize farmer residents and limit their production. A report by Katungod-Sinirangan Bisaya indicates that at least 545 barangays in Eastern Visayas are affected by militarization, 250 of which are under so-called peace and development operations which have resulted in six incidents of forcible evacuation.

The entire Negros island is currently being subjected to state terrorism. The deployment of additional 220 soldiers island resulted in the intensification of militarization.
No place is safe in Negros most especially that the Duterte Death Squad has already been actively operating in the island. Fifty cases of extrajudicial killings were recorded in the region under Duterte.

In Southern Negros, the 15th IB has been conducting military operations since February 9 in the boundary of barangays Pinggot, Ilog, and Locotan in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental and Barangay Villasol, Bayawan City in Negros Oriental.

On the same day, Karapatan received a report that Clinton Alsong, former member of Anakbayan, was gunned down in Barangay Calamba, Guihulngan City. The victim remains in critical condition. The incident happened three days after evacuees returned to their community.

Meanwhile, in Northern Negros, 79th IB and PNP elements are jointly terrorizing the residents of Don Salvador Benedicto using trumped-up charges and subsume them under the control of the Dela Cruz dynasty. This February, five civilians were arrested in the said town and were accused of NPA membership. The Northern Negros Alliance Of Human Rights Advocates said that the 79th IB, PNP and other paramilitary forces are relentlessly conducting combat operations and assemblies in peasant communities. Many are coerced to attend assemblies especially in the cities of Escalante, San Carlos and Sagay and in the towns of Toboso, Calatrava and Don Salvador Benedicto. Such operations began during the last quarter of 2018. After the brutal massacre on October 2018, many other farmers have been subjected to illegal arrests, illegal searches, threats and intimidation. Arrested civilians are tortured and are paraded as NPA members.

In Central Negros, civilians are beset by attacks by the 94th IB under the guise of its so-called Synchronized Enhanced Managing of Police Operations (SEMPO) or Oplan Sauron in Negros Oriental. The Leonardo Panaligan Command also reported the burning of the house of Arlene Pausal last February 14, a month after the NPA mounted a tactical offensive in Barangay Banwage, Guihulngan City. The 94th IB continues to conduct military operations in the area until today. They also issued a list of peasant leaders they threatened to capture whether “dead or alive.”

Harassment. In other parts of Mindanao, harassment against activists continue unabated. A member of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Subregion and John Timothy Romero, program coordinator of Center for Lumad Advocacy, Networking and Services (CLANS) received death threats via text messages on February 12 and 8, respectively.

Police arrests peasant leader in Palawan