FOURTEEN farmers were allegedly taken forcibly by members of the 8th and 23rd Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from their community and were brought to their camp in Maramag, Bukidnon on a helicopter last August 27, said a spokesperson of a farmer’s organization.
Kahugpongan sa Mag-uuma sa Kitaotao spokesperson Isidro Indao said in a phone interview with Sun.Star Davao on Sunday that the 14 people who were taken by the soldiers by force were accused by AFP as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Another reason might also have something to do with the involvement of these people in fighting for the rights of the farmers in their community in Barangay White Kulaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon.
Some of these people taken by the soldiers were identified as Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Barangay White Kulaman (Namabaw) and Tikulpa leaders Ellen Manlimbaas, Felizardo Labadan, Editha Bontao, Jun Pellazar, Camilo Asunan, Noeda Manlumaray, and Ariel Malumaray. The rest are still unidentified.
Another reason for taking them is that they are also protecting the farmer’s lands in their community from capitalists who are trying to penetrate in their area, Indao said.
Indao added that the AFP did not show any legal documents when they took the said people to their camp. There were only 13 left at the soldier’s camp since one of them, Josie Labaninay, was released because she is nursing her small child.
Indao said the AFP is causing troubles to the farmers’ daily source of income by taking control at their community and preventing them from working on their fields because they were suspected to be meeting the NPAs.
He said they had sought the help of support groups, church people, and the media regarding this incident, adding that a support group responded by conducting a fact-finding mission to document the alleged violations done by the AFP, but the soldiers prevented them from coming there.