Terror, summary killings, school burning and fake news among AFP staples in North Cotabato

The implementation of martial law in Mindanao has already resulted in innumerable human rights violations that the AFP, especially the rotten 39th IB and 19th IB in North Cotabato, have resorted in peddling fake news to cover up their reign of terror, summary killings and assault against schools in the hinterland Lumad and peasant villages in the province.

In the morning of November 15, at least 15 masked and fully-armed AFP soldiers and members of the paramilitary Bagani swooped down a day care center in Brgy. Mahongcog, Magpet and tied up and terrorized teacher Amelita Nebres. In keeping with a storyline, the AFP soldiers declared themselves to be members of the NPA Guerilla Front 53 carrying out a punitive action against the hapless teacher who supposedly failed to deliver an extortion letter to the officials of village. The AFP soldiers then proceeded to burn the day care center before fleeing the scene.

It is a curious state of affair, however, that a fully-armed group was able to manhandle a civilian and burn down a school when a similarly heavily-armed AFP detachment sits just a hundred meters away and in the midst of civilian houses in Brgy. Mahongcog. The village has in fact become rather like a virtual military garrison, serving as a de facto command post for all counter-insurgency and psywar operations being carried out by the 39th IB and 19th IB. Even the masses in Brgy. Mahongcog and neighboring villages are incredulous of the AFP’s obvious lies.

What the masses in Magpet and nearby towns know for sure is the fact that it is the fascist AFP troops who have mastered the vicious modus operandi of demonizing and demolishing schools, harassing teachers and students and killing members and officials of Parents, Teachers and Community Association (PTCA), as their commander-in-chief GRP Pres. Rodrigo Duterte promised on several occasions to “bomb Lumad schools” and “flatten” their hills.

On November 18, Esteban Empong, a PTCA official of a Lumad school in his village in Sitio Pag-asa, Brgy. Cabalantian, Arakan, was shot dead while staying at a relative’s house in Brgy. Sagundanon in neighboring town Kitaotao, Bukidnon by troopers of the 19th IB and paramilitary CAFGU. Empong, himself a previous teacher of the Lumad school, had been tagged and repeatedly ordered to “surrender” by the 39th IB and 19th IB as an NPA member with a P35,000 bounty on his head.

On November 18, five minors and students of a Lumad school were accosted, two of whom were physically assaulted, in Sitio Bantaan, Brgy. Bagumbayan in Magpet by members of the 19th IB who were on combat operation. Soldiers hit one student several times on his side, wrapped his head inside a cellophane bag until he could hardly breathe and tried to slit his throat with a bolo. Tagged as being run by the NPA, their Lumad school and teachers were vilified during so-called “community meetings” by the 39th IB and the 19th IB.

It should be remembered that on October 23, 2015, AFP troops under the 8th and 23rd IB instigated and escorted the village chief and some cohorts to demolish a Lumad school in nearby Brgy. White Culaman in Kitaotao town, Bukidnon. The school had also been tagged by the AFP as an “NPA school.” For several years since their opening, Lumad schools in Magpet, Arakan and Makilala in North Cotabato have received the same red-baiting, harassment and terrorizing from the 39th IB, the 19th IB and previous abusive AFP units assigned in the province.

The propensity to orchestrate a scenario and promptly peddle misinformation for the media to lap up is by no means a new tactic employed by AFP troops in North Cotabato. On October 19, in a fit of desperation, the 19th IB fed the media a story of a “45-minute encounter” with NPA forces in Brgy. Lanao-Kuran in Arakan town, “killing a certain Alvin” and “wounding 2 female rebels” and finally “seizing an M14 rifle” to round up an elaborate tale that is as far from the truth as their claim of weakening the masses’ armed revolutionary resistance in North Cotabato.

The lies which the AFP troops perpetuate to cover their burning of a day care center and the supposed “encounter” in Arakan are merely part of their scheme to justify their continued and intensifying militarization under martial law and Oplan Kapayapaan. Worse, these falsehoods serve as smokescreen for the real and heinous crimes that their soldiers continuously perpetrate against civilians.

In early October, a fact-finding delegation tasked to investigate the rights violations committed by AFP and paramilitary troops in Magpet were themselves harassed by soldiers encamped in civilian houses and structures in Brgy. Balite. Nevertheless, the delegation was able to document cases of torture, harassment, intimidation and forced surrender of Lumad and peasant residents.

Not a single person is fooled by the worn-out AFP propaganda that the implementation of martial law has not resulted in rights violations and killings in North Cotabato. Already a deeply fascist and corrupt armed institution, the AFP and their paramilitaries are being emboldened by Duterte to commit the most heinous crimes against the people and line their pockets with funds from forced surrenders and extortion of civilians.

Terror, summary killings, school burning and fake news among AFP staples in North Cotabato