Philippine Air Force tagged in foiled abduction of fisherfolk leader in Batangas
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
Soldiers from the Philippine Air Force (PAF) are being accused of masterminding the frustrated abduction of a fisherfolk leader in Batangas.
The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) has tagged military elements identified with the 703rd and 704th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) as having attempted to abduct Isabelo Alicaya, the 59 year-old chairman of Haligi ng Batanguenong Anakdagat (Habagat), Pamalakaya’s provincial chapter in the province.
Based on a human rights report forwarded by Karapatan-Batangas to Pamalakaya’s headquarters in Quezon City, the frustrated abduction took place in Barangay Lumbangan in Nasugbu, Batangas last November 18. Sometime before noon that same day, Alicaya was waiting for a passenger jeepney that would take him to the Nasugbu Regional Trial Court. He was then scheduled to attend the hearing on the petition for writ of habeas corpus filed by the relatives of Alfredo Bucal, 62 years old and a tricycle driver who was allegedly abducted by state security agents over his involvement with militant organizations in the province.
In his affidavit, the Habagat leader said a white car with tinted windows stopped in front of him and a man in civilian clothes got off and told Alicaya to go to Barangay Putol, Tuy. The man, who he suspected to be a soldier because of how he looked, told Alicaya to investigate the killing of a certain de Guzman who was allegedly killed by members of the New People’s Army (NPA). The man then accused Alicaya of providing human rights service and assistance to members of the NPA because he was a member of Pamalakaya-Habagat and an official of Karapatan-Batangas. He handed Alicaya a written statement allegedly released by the NPA admitting to the killing of de Guzman.
By then Alicaya attempted to leave and get on a passing passenger jeep but the man stopped him. Sensing that the man might force him to get into his car and abduct him, Alicaya shouted for the jeepney driver’s help. The driver, in turn, loudly accosted the man and questioned him as to what he wanted to do with Alicaya. During the exchange between the would-be abductor and the driver, Alicaya hurriedly left and got into another jeep and proceeded to Nasugbu.
Governor Vilma’s assistance sought
Prior to the abduction attempt against him, Alicaya joined a human rights fact-finding mission from November 15-16 on the killing of Hernando Sabiya also known as Edward Villarin who was gunned down allegedly by members of the 740th Combat Group of PAF in Sto.Tomas, Batangas last November 7.
On November 13, members of the PAF spread leaflets in Barangay Balibago in Calatagan, Batangas tagging Alicaya and another Pamalakaya-Habagat leader Rufina Nolasco, 60 years old, as members of the NPA. The two elderly leaders were tagged as orchestrating the killings of military assets and government troops in the province.
Pamalakaya said Alicaya has become a perennial victim of military harassment because of his championing of fisherfolk issues and human rights. In 2008, Alicaya was charged along with 26 other leaders of Southern Tagalog in the bombing of a Globe Cell Site which was later dismissed by the local court.
Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap appealed to Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos to look into what he said was a “resurgence of terror” in her province. He said the provincial governor should immediately conduct a full-blown investigation on allegations that officials and members of the PAF in Batangas are behind the abduction attempt besides the increasing number of human rights violations against officials and members of progressive organizations and human rights groups in Batangas.
“Governor Santos should step in and investigate this matter. As the highest-ranking local official, she has the political and moral obligation to protect her citizens against human rights violations as perpetrated by elements of the military,” Hicap said. He also said Santos should also take a stand against the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan in the region.
In November 7, 2010, Rene Rodriguez, a member of the Samahan ng mga Magbubukid ng Batangas, was shot dead by two men wearing masks and riding a motorcycle. He was the 21st victim of extrajudicial killings under the Benigno Aquino administration. Prior to his killing, human rights monitoring group Karapatan said a group of military personnel who introduced themselves as members of PAF went to the victim’s house and looked for him.
Hicap also said his group plans to bring the ongoing “reign of terror” perpetrated by elements of PAF to the Department of Justice (DoJ), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the house committees on human rights of the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives for appropriate action.