“Majority of the killings happened during Martial Law in Mindanao and are linked to agrarian cases and land disputes.”
By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA — Of 126 politically-motivated killings recorded by human rights group Karapatan or the Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan) from July 2016 to December 31, 2017, 109 are from the peasant sector.
Of the 109 farmers, majority are from Mindanao, who were active in local peasant organizations affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), and tagged as members or supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA). Killings are carried out by masked assassins riding motorcycles, suspected to be military elements and intelligence agents of Philippine Army Battalions deployed in the provinces where the killings took place.
“Majority of the killings happened during Martial Law in Mindanao and are linked to agrarian cases and land disputes. Those killed were defending their farms and ancestral lands from landgrabbers, large-scale mining companies, big business and plantations. Those killed were resisting the wanton militarization and human rights violations in rural areas,” the KMP Secretary General Antonio Flores said.
“These killings are state-sanctioned and carried out under the government’s Oplan Kapayapaan counter-insurgency program,” he added.
Aside from killings, cases of illegal arrests and detention are also increasing.
As early as January 9, three farmers in Mindanao were forcibly taken by state agents. As reported by Karapatan, Jarold Adiaton and Jane Solis, residents of Barangay Balite, Magpet, North Cotabato and members of the Balite Farmers Association (BFA), were abducted by composite elements of the 15th and 39th Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army (IBPA) and Cotabato Provincial and Magpet Municipal police officers.
On the same day, in Barangay Tempuran, Magpet, North Cotabato, Datu Maylan Andas of the Manobo Aromanen Pasakkaday Association (MAPA) was also abducted while feeding his chickens.
On January 16, Filjun Celeste Arpajo and Venjie Catampo, residents of Barangay Marayag, Lupon, Davao Oriental, were also abducted by military elements to be used as ‘guides’ in their counterinsurgency operations. Both are still in the custody of the military.
Recently, students and teachers of Lumad school ALCADEV were forced to evacuate from their communities after the military started operations — intense surveillance using drones and firing canyons to instill fear among the people.
“We demand justice for all the victims of political killings. Human rights violations continue as sanctioned by AFP Commander-in-Chief, Rodrigo Duterte himself. We hold Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, AFP Chief Rey Leonardo Guerrero and Philippine Army Commanding General Rolando Bautista responsible for the hundreds of deaths,” KMP’s Flores said.
The military has also increased their operations in Southern Tagalog. In Batangas, the 730th Combat Group of the Philippine Air Force (PFA) intensified their operations in Calaca and Nasugbu. In Quezon Province, a fact-finding team was blocked by the 85th IB on January 17. The team was supposed to investigate reports of harassments and military encampments in civilian areas in Barangay Jonggo, Lopez, Quezon Province.
In Quezon province, a fact-finding team was blocked at Barangay Jonggo, Lopez town by the 85th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army of the 2nd Infantry Division, January 17. The FFM team was about to investigate reports of military encampment and harassment in the communities.
“Thirty-one long years after Mendiola Massacre, farmers are still being killed in their defense of their lands. Justice for the slain farmers are long overdue,” the peasant leader said.
On January 22, peasant groups, led by KMP, will hold protest actions in Manila, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Quezon Province, Negros, Bicol, Davao City, and other urban centers to commemorate the 31st year of the Mendiola Massacre. As a national day of protest, the protest will register their indignation against the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) and impending charter change, where the proposed Constitution will open 100 percent ownership of alienable and disposable lands to foreign entities.