Rights violations mount as soldiers ‘protect’ govt projects in Masbate

(Photo courtesy of Karapatan-Bicol)
(Photo courtesy of Karapatan-Bicol)

BULATLAT SPECIAL REPORT:

Instead of benefiting from the development projects, farmers could now hardly tend to their fields, afraid that soldiers would harass and brand them as members or supporters of the NPAs.

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The government’s “development intervention” has led to human rights violations in communities in Masbate province, a fact-finding mission by human rights group Karapatan revealed.

Vince Casilihan, spokesperson of Karapatan-Bicol, told Bulatlat.com that they documented human rights violations in villages in the municipality of Monreal, where soldiers of the 9th Infantry Battalion were deployed “to protect” government projects under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana) from members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Pamana is a government project that extends development intervention in isolated and conflict-affected communities. Casilihan said among the Pamana projects were building of roads and pavements.

Soldiers were deployed in the villages of Macarthur, Togoron, Sto. Niño and Canturna, affecting some 2,000 population, Casilihan said. Their number range from seven to 20 in each village, where they roamed around armed and in plainclothes. In Sto. Niño, the soldiers encamped in the public elementary school, he said.

The Karapatan-Bicol fact-finding mission, held on May 13, documented cases of soldiers staying in civilian residences and public places, harassment and physical assault of residents.

Instead of benefiting from the development projects, farmers could now hardly tend to their fields, afraid that soldiers would harass and brand them as members or supporters of the NPAs.

The day after the mission went to Monreal, on May 14, two farmer-activists were shot dead.

Visits

In Cantorna village, Monreal, soldiers first visited the house of Ely Andaya, 53, on April 14, at 3 p.m. and told him to go to Jury Hanabe’s house, where the soldiers were staying. Afraid for his life, Andaya did not go.

On May 10, at around 8 p.m., six soldiers in full-battle gear forced their way into his house. Andaya recognized a certain Sgt. Milan and another soldier whose nameplate read Vargas. Soldiers told him to report to the house where they were staying or else they would abduct him.

The following day, he was summoned by their village chief Brian Hanabe to pay the soldiers a visit. This time, he went but was accompanied by his family. At the house, soldiers accused him of being a recruiter and “collector” for the NPA.

“That is not true, sir,” Andaya told the soldiers, and even challenged them to gather the residents and ask them to prove their claim.

Soldiers then took photos of him – in all possible angles – the fact-sheet prepared by Karapatan read.

A soldier claimed Andaya’s daughter Elsa was an NPA guerrilla and he should make her surrender within the week, or else, they would kill him. Then they offered him a job as a CAFGU member, which he refused.

Soldiers released Andaya at 11 a.m. that same day. But they him told to return everyday to sign their logbook. Andaya followed the soldier’s instructions, fearing for his family’s safety. His other children, on the other hand, left for Manila.

(Photo courtesy of Karapatan-Bicol)
(Photo courtesy of Karapatan-Bicol)

Interrogation

On April 15, Escurel spouses, Danilo, 39, and Maricel, 38, also of Cantorna village, were summoned to the village health center by soldiers. Though afraid and hesitant, the two went to the health center but found no soldiers. Their search for the soldiers led them to the house of a former government official Jury Villamor.

“When they entered the house, a soldier immediately grabbed Danilo’s arm and dragged him towards the kitchen. Maricel and their son Dan wanted to follow but they were barred,” the fact-finding team reported.

Danilo was shown a list of names. Soldiers, who were in their civilian clothes, said it was the list of supporters of the NPAs and that he was one of them. They punched him on the back and in his stomach during the interrogation, which lasted until late in the afternoon.

The following day, soldiers went to their house to interrogate him again. Maricel told the soldiers that they should talk to her husband in the village hall, in the presence of local government officials.

“Are you trying to dictate on us?” one of the soldiers told her. Soldiers then warned them that they would kill the rest of the family if they talk about the incident.

Since then, soldiers have kept the family under surveillance. The Escurels said soldiers would go to their house even at dawn to check their links to the NPAs.

No government to help

The fact-finding team noted that village officials did not help victims of human rights abuses in the community.

In Andaya’s case, village officials did not even record the incident in their blotter report out of fear of soldiers.

“Soldiers do not care if one is a town mayor or a village chief,” Andaya was quoted as saying.

Impact

Casilihan described the living condition of residents as “dire and depressing.” Residents till rocky lands, and have to subsist on corn most of the time.

The fact-finding team reported that Andaya could no longer go to the fields and harvest coconuts, which is his family’s main livelihood.

The Escurels lost their goats and other farm animals because they could no longer tend to them. They were forced to just sell their carabao, because soldiers followed whenever they took it out to the fields. ()

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  1. How can this be done to a HELPLESS guy by this so called to be civilian protector but instead are the one’s TERRORIZING the community !! Calling DILG !! ASAP !! CONFRONTS THIS shenagigans by your mens !!

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