Military official harasses disaster victims in post-calamity relief ops

Alang-alang, Leyte – Peasant group Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-SB) reported a case of military harassment in disaster-stricken Alang-alang a day after residents of Brgy. Biga-a received aid from the organization on the 30th of January. The harasser, identified as Alex Mendoza, is a military official from the 78th Infantry Battalion currently encamping in Brgy. Rubas in the neighboring municipality of Jaro. Mendoza was seen asking for the list of recipients in the SAGUPA-led relief drive while looking for three local peasant leaders from the Alang-alang Small Farmers Association’s (ASFA).

SAGUPA-SB Secretary General Jun Berino claims that Mendoza gave out threats to residents by saying that the community will suffer the same fate as war-torn Marawi if it maintains its link with progressive organizations. In early January last year, residents also reveal being harassed by the same official after a similar activity was conducted in their village.

In a press release, Berino condemned what he called “a plot to localize Duterte’s crackdown here in Eastern Visayas” and called for the immediate withdrawal of troops deployed in the region.

Towards the end of 2017, Duterte promised to launch a massive witch hunt against progressive organizations in the country that saw a rise in military operations nationwide under the regime’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Kapayapaan.

Peasants as victims of militarism

According to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), 111 farmers have already been killed under the Duterte administration. In Eastern Visayas alone, SAGUPA-SB has already recorded three peasant-killings perpetrated by the military.  Since 2017 four (4) mass evacuations have been recorded all due to army encampments in their homes and one due to sustained aerial bombings.

“Our farmers are suffering a drop in production because they cannot even make it to their fields without being intimidated by army officials. If they are accused of having any semblance to rebels, they are either killed or abducted” local rights group Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas told Eastern Vista.

All of the seven (7) battalions under the 8th Infantry Division are involved and are being accused of harassing and militarizing communities. Northern Samar, one of the most heavily militarized provinces of Eastern Visayas recorded the killing of Bernadette Lutao in an alleged clash between the New People’s Army and state forces. Official accounts later verified that no such encounter took place. In the municipalities of Calbiga and Basey, the 87th Infantry Battalion actively threatened and interrogated residents, producing a fake list of supposed NPA surrenderees. Among the recent cases in the region is the arrest of peasant leader Carlito Badillo in Marabut, Samar. Badillo was illegally detained, interrogated and then tortured by 87th IBPA in Calbiga before being charged with trumped up cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, and is currently detained at the Tacloban City Jail.

SAGUPA-SB held that the Duterte administration must be made accountable for all the human rights abuses committed by his armed forces.

“We must continue to fight against these acts of harassment and fascism by the government. We challenge the Duterte administration to provide what the people greatly need: land reform and our democratic rights, not harassment and human rights violations” Berino added. #

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Eastern Vista

Eastern Vista is an alternative media organization in Eastern Visayas. Stories of people in the struggle for justice and aid after super typhoon Yolanda inspired its creation in 2014. Eastern Vista is also a co-producer of Lingganay han Kamatuoran, a Waray-based radio magazine program airing since 2003. From Eastern Philippines, Eastern Vista shares the news and views from a people rising.

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