By GRACE S. UDDIN
Posted By Bulatlat.com
DAVAO CITY — Thirteen farmers filed human rights complaints against the 25th Infantry Battalion for illegal detention and torture.
They included Alfonso Mangubat and wife Baden; Anastacia Villaniso and her sons Emilio, Boicy and Roy and 15-year old grandchildren Mary Grace Minor and Christina Aranceo-Minor; Edmund Cutor, Mary Jane Yurong and brothers Francisco and Junrex Linantod.
The farmers also complained that the military had accused them of having participated in the March 5 operation of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Salvacion in Monkayo. The NPA ambush killed four soldiers of the 25th Infantry Battalion.
The 13 farmers complained that they were forced to admit that they were NPAs. Soldiers earlier picked them up from the forest where they were cutting wood. They were brought to the 25th IB headquarters, then to the police station, and finally, to the Nabunturan Prosecutors’ Office where charges of illegal possession of explosives were filed against them.
One of the farmers, Emilio Villaniso, 18, told Davao Today he was resting and listening to the radio in a hut in the forest when he saw around 60 soldiers approaching.
Villaniso said they had been in the forest for a week, cutting wood, and were about to go home when the soldiers came and asked for their firearms. Villaniso told them that except for two chainsaws, they have nothing else.
“The soldiers told me that if I did admit where our firearms are, I should admit that I am an NPA and they will help me,” he said.
Villaniso said he was made to squat with about six kilo piles of wood placed on his arms. He said that during the times he got tired and took a rest, two soldiers would simultaneously hit his stomach with a two-feet long piece of wood. Shielding himself against the blow, his arms got hit instead.
He also said the soldiers pounded his fingers using a casserole. Then the soldiers struck him with the butt of an armalite.
Villaniso said he could hear the soldiers beating up his other colleagues.
The soldiers brought the 13 farmers to the 25th IB’s headquarters in Monkayo the next morning where the farmers were made to stay for two days.
Another victim, Edmund Cutor, 19, said two soldiers beat him up at the headquarters. They hit him at the stomach while his hands were tied. He was also forced to admit that he was an NPA
“The soldier told me that I should admit I am an NPA because my colleagues already told them that I was an NPA,” Cutor said. He did not “admit,” though.
On Wednesday morning, the soldiers brought the 13 farmers to the Monkayo police station where they were put in jail.
Cutor said the police took mug shots of him, carrying a placard with his name and position as an ‘NPA team leader.’
“I felt like I was on the ‘wanted’ list,” Cutor said, “I told them ‘I am not an NPA leader, Sir. You knew what I was doing in the forest. Why are you treating us like this?’”
In a statement, Roel Agustin II, spokesperson of the NPA’s Conrado Heredia Command, said the March 5 ambush of the 25th IB’s Alpha Company in Monkayo lasted an hour. Agustin said four soldiers were killed during the ambush and “several others” were wounded but Captain Emmanuel Garcia, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division, said only one soldier was killed and three were wounded.
The military picked up the 13 farmers on March 7, two days after the NPA ambush. At that time, the 13 were preparing to leave the forest after a week’s work of cutting wood and lumber.
Cutor said they did not even know there had been an encounter. He said they only saw a helicopter roaming above them on Saturday, the day after the supposed encounter. He said they did not even hear any exchange of gunfire.
Villaniso and Cutor said the soldiers themselves gave them clothes and hot water to apply hot compress on the bruises inflicted on their abdomens. They suspected, however, that the soldiers only wanted to hide the torture marks.
“I am angry at what they did. They beat us up even if we did not commit any crime,” Cutor said, “They can’t even prove their accusations against us.”
The other victims complained that their heads were wrapped in cellophane so that they cannot breathe. Others were made to squat under the burning sun, with knives pointed at their necks.
Soldiers brought the 13 farmers to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Nabunturan, where cases of illegal possession of explosives, murder and frustrated murder were filed against them.
The Monkayo farmers’ detention came barely a month after the 39th IB filed a case against seven Sta. Cruz farmers for “staging an ambush against them.” The Union of Peoples Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) said the case was trumped up.
The indigenous people’s partylist Katribu, the human rights group Karapatan and UPLM lawyers secured the release of the 13 Monkayo farmers, who spent more than 36 hours in jail.
Kelly Delgado, spokesperson of Karapatan in Southern Mindanao, said soldiers always blame civilians and accuse them of being NPAs every time they suffer losses in the battle against the NPAs. (Posted by Bulatlat.com)