Peasant killings continue in Mindanao

(Contributed photo)
(Contributed photo)

By BULATLAT

MANILA – The spate of killings of peasant activists are still unabated, with two attacks last week in Southern Mindanao region.

Human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao condemned the killings of elderly peasants Elias Pureza and Bernardo Calan Ripdos who they said were shot dead by suspected soldiers on April 6 and 8, respectively.

Karapatan-SMR spokesperson Jay Apiag said that on April 6, in Davao del Norte province, Pureza, 60, was shot dead by six suspected members of the 60th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine army inside his house in Sitio (subvillage) Palmera, Mamangan village in San Isidro town. He was a member of the Farmers Association of San Isidro (Fasi).

On April 8, at 6:00 a.m. in Compostela Valley, Ripdos was shot dead by five suspected soldiers of the 71st and 46th Infantry Battalions inside his home in Sangab village, Maco town. Ripdos, 66, was a member of Hugpong sa mga Mag-uuma sa Walog Compostela (Humawac).

Also in Compostela Valley earlier this month, on April 2, Danilo Nadal, 37, was killed while on board a motorcycle in Tibagun village, Pantukan. Nadal was a member of Hugpong sa mga Mag-uuma sa Pantukan (Humapan).

Apiag said in a statement that this brings to 24 the number of victims of political killings in the region. The group is set to file these cases with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) based in Geneva, Switzerland. The UNHRC will hold its Universal Periodic Review in May.

“Politically-motivated killings have been rapidly increasing in the region in the midst of rising people’s resistance against the worsening state fascism and unfaltering demand for genuine land reform, national industrialization, free basic social services and other socio-economic reforms,” Apiag said.

He said had already filed complaints with the Joint Monitoring Committee on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl).

Karapatan-SMR has included the case of New People’s Army (NPA) member Noel Gulmatico, a.k.a. “Ka Jepoi,” whose mutilated body was found in July 2016. Gulmatico was believed to have been captured alive in the middle of an encounter in North Cotabato, but was tortured and then killed. The military has denied the allegations.

The latest killings bring to 49 the number of slain activists under the Duterte administration. At least 22 peasants were killed from February to March this year, which rights groups attribute to the AFP’s declaration of an all-out war.

Forced evacuation in Samar

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay lambasted the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for ignoring the call for the withdrawal of military forces in communities amid the peace talks between government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“The military’s refusal to suspend all military operations and pull-out from communities, despite overwhelming clamor of peasants and national minorities, and the poisonous duet of warmongers (Defense secretary) Delfin Lorenzana and (AFP chief-of-staff Lieutenant General) Eduardo Año to sabotage the continuing peace talks reveal their disdain for free land distribution and genuine agrarian reform,” Palabay said.

In the Visayas, on April 4, some 1,000 residents from the four upland villages of Calbiga town in Samar evacuated to the town center to evade the continuing encampment of 87th IB soldiers in their communities. Karapatan said residents from 12 more villagers followed suit on April 6.

“Contrary to reports from the AFP, evacuees are still staying at the gym, to protest against the ongoing militarization of their communities,” Palabay said. ()

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