Farmers accuse military of harassment

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

FARMERS from Sangab in Maco, Compostela Valley filed human rights violations complaints against members of the 71st Infantry Battalion under the 10th Infantry Division.

Carlito Trangia, staff of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), together with other members, assisted a victim of human rights violation in filing complaints of harassment and intimidation last Friday at the Commission on Human Rights in Davao.

"This is for encampment on the public facilities, red tagging of community leaders, force interrogation at illegal search on houses, and false surrenderees sa mga civilian bilang mga NPA (New People's Army) member," Kerlan Fanagel, regional coordinator of Katribu Partylist, said in a text message.


Trangia said the presence of the military creates mental torture to the farmers, especially because soldiers have been accusing them of supporting or giving assistance to communist rebels.

As a result, farmers live in fear of both contending armed groups.

"What are these farmers guilty of that their lives are threatened? Anyone will be scared under such situations, and so we believe this is an abuse of their human rights and that's why we are bringing their complaint to the CHR," Trangia said in vernacular.

He said farmers and civilians should be spared from threats and harassment by the military and the communist rebels.

"Dili man mi supak sa presensya sa mga militar, ang amo lang dira dili lang unta nila hatagan ug hasul ang mga mag-uuma (We are not against military presence for as long as they do not threaten or harass the farmers)," he added.

Trangia also appealed to the military to remove the names of farmers in its order of battle.

"Since the military is hunting down the New People's Army, it should spare the farmers from the hunt. Farmers live by tilling the land, what will happen if they can no longer till because of fear?" Trangia said.

One of the farmers who filed a complaint identified one Paquore, a soldier, who forced him to admit that he is a member of the NPA.

"Gipaadto ko sa barangay tapos ila gisirad-an para lang ila ko sukit-sukiton. Gihatagan pa ko ug listahan sa mga pangalan sa NPA ug gipangutana ko kung kaila ba daw ko. Ni isa wala man ko'y kaila kay dili man ko myembro sa NPA, ila man jud ipamugos (They invited me to the barangay hall and locked me in there to be interrogated. They showed me a list of names of alleged NPA men and asked me if I knew any one of those. I didn't recognize any of the names, but they forced me to admit knowledge)," said the complainant, who asked not be identified for security purposes.

The complainant said the interrogation happened in October but since then, the military has constantly checked on him, prompting his mother to advise him to leave lest he get in trouble.

Lieutenant Colonel Camilo Ligayo, commander of 71st Infantry Battalion (IB), in a telephone interview denied knowledge of the farmers' accusations.

"Bakit hindi sila sa barangay or sa mayor's office nagcomplain? Kasi kami naman we are always coordinating with the barangay officials, to mayor and other agencies in Comval," Ligayo said.

He said all members of 71st Infantry Battalion are mandated to be respectful and disciplined in administering their tasks.

"Anyway, karapatan naman din nilang magreklamo, sasagutin namin yan," he said.

He said he will still conduct investigation with regard the accusation.

Lieutenant Colonel Medel Aguilar, public information officer of 10th Infantry Division, said their troops were deployed in the communities for the conduct of peace and development outreach program.

Aguilar said the troops immersed themselves in the community to know the socio-economic issues, which the NPA could exploit against the government and recruit new members.

"When they were first deployed in the area, they conducted blood-letting program because of the dengue problem and help those who need blood," Aguilar said.

He said that in other areas, their soldiers participated in clean-up drives. They also conducted medical and dental mission last October 31 in Mawab, where they delivered various services.

"This is our thrust but our troops will be ready to defend the community and themselves if they will be attacked, harassed by lawless armed groups like the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA whose motive is to divert our attention away from community works," Aguilar said.

He added they will appreciate critics, saying this will help them improve in the field of their work.

"But we can expect propaganda from those who do not like the military and the government, as a whole live in peace and harmony with the people," Aguilar said. (Ivy C. Tejano)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on November 08, 2010.

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