“The terror should stop now.”
By CHRISTINE ANNE T. CABANATAN
MANILA – At an indignation rally in front of Camp Aguinaldo today June 17, human rights activists deplored the so-called “Palparan Battalion” for its involvement in the killing of three indigenous peoples leaders in Davao City, calling it a “heinous act.”
“The 69th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) should immediately pull out from the community and answer for the massacre of peasant and Lumad leaders,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.
“As if killing is not enough, (Maj. Gen. Edgardo) Año’s men tried to cover up their crime by lying and calling those killed as rebels, and planted firearms and grenade beside the remains of the three,” Palabay added.
The 69th Battalion is branded by rights activists as “Palparan Battalion” because they were trained and previously led by now retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan Jr.
The retired general, known as “The Butcher” and poster boy of the bloody counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya under former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is now facing kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges over the enforced disappearance of two University of the Philippines students.
Members of the 69th IB, rights groups said, now deployed in Mindanao are implicated anew in the Paquibato massacre that left three civilians killed, a 12-year-old child wounded, and two community leaders missing. The killings happened around midnight of June 14 inside the house of Aida Seisa, secretary general of Paquibato District Peasant Association.
Those who were killed were Datu Ruben Enlog, Randy Lavarcon Carnasa, and Oligario Quimbo.
Seisa, along with her husband, remains missing as of this writing. Children rights group Salinlahi said in a statement that they are believed to be under the custody of the military.
“In pursuit of the targets of Oplan Bayanihan, they are treating human rights defenders as enemies of the state. They are killing civilians, not rebels or terrorists.” Piya Macliing Malayao, Katribu secretary general said.
A birthday party
After the incident, the military claimed that the IP leaders were members of the New Peoples’ Army killed in an encounter. They said they recovered three land mines, weighing at least three kilos each, one grenade, a rifle and an M1 Garand.
But Salinlahi secretary general Kharlo Manaño maintained that Seisa’s 12-year-old daughter was celebrating her birthday together with family and friends when elements of the 69th IB strafed her house.
“The military thinks they can fool us. Can my father still think of carrying land mines of about three kilos each during the strafing? They just made up that story. How can my father carry the two land mines when his armpit had been blown up?” Felipe Carnasa, son of Randy Carnasa, one of those killed, said in a statement.
But Katribu said the massacre in Paquibato District is not an isolated case.
Malayao said, “These claims are all lies. This is not the first time that military units such as the 69th IB had used the same alibi, the same cover up story, whenever they have killed civilians during its military operations.”
Rights groups have observed the same scenario in the 2012 killing of Totong Mabinsi, a a Dibabawon barangay police, who was killed by suspected members of the 60th IB. In the same year, the 27th IB claimed that Juvy Capio and her two sons were killed in an “encounter” with NPAs in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
Records of violations
Human rights groups have a long record of the rights violations allegedly perpetuated by the 69th IB.
Karapatan said the battalion was previously under the command of Palparan when he was assigned in Central Luzon. In 2004, the battalion was implicated in the Hacienda Luisita massacre that left 13 striking farm workers killed. Two years later, members of the 69th IB, under Gen. Ricardo Visaya, were implicated in the abduction and torture of farmers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo.
Today, the 69th IB is under Año’s 10th Infantry Division. Año is implicated in the enforced disappearance of farmer-activist Jonas Burgos.
Palabay said, “Año’s approach meant massacres, bombings and indiscriminate firing in the Lumad communities in Davao region. This is how he reaches out to the people. Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan in the communities meant terror.”