Samar farmers hold anti-militarization camp-out, harassed by military

Village folks march to the San Miguel plaza to attend the evacuation camp-out

NORTHERN SAMAR – What was supposed to be a show of resistance against the de facto Martial Law in Northern Samar and in the whole Eastern Visayas rather exposed the military’s inhumanity against the farmers.

Village folks from the barrios of San Miguel, San Francisco, Quirino and Imelda in Las Navas, Hinagunoyan in Catubig and other barrios and members of farmers groups Northern Samar Small Farmers Association (NSSFA), Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (Sagupa SB), and Movement Against Tyranny Northern Samar trooped to the plaza of Brgy. San Miguel, Las Navas, Northern Samar where an ‘evacuation camp-out’ was held. The said demonstration aims to show what would happen if the Armed Forces of the Philippinez (AFP) will not pull out its troops from their villages.

NSSFA reported that the state forces have been camping inside the village of San Miguel where several human rights cases including bombing of the San Miguel Elementary School has been recorded. Military troops have also occupied the villages of San Francisco and Quirino which led the farmers to file a petition seeking for the immediate pull-out of troops last October 18. After the petition filing to the local government of Las Navas and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) regional office, military men camped at Brgy. Perez in Las Navas town.

Threat to life and livelihood

Military presence in these villages have brought fear to the residents, emphasizing the effect to their livelihood.

The towns of Catubig and Las Navas are the two most affected areas of infestation in abacca and coconut crops. Farmers have disclosed that they are earning even below half of what they earn before the infestation. The military presence in their villages indeed serves as another pest to their livelihood according to NSSFA.

As part of their psychological operations, the AFP forces threatened barangay officials by sendinv series of letters to their offices. A letter sent to the barangay officials of eight villages signed by a certain 2nd Lieutenant Sumawang seeks to invite them for a meeting on October 26 which most of the officials did not attend. Anothet letter followed now giving the officials a threat that if they won’t attend this time, more state forces will be deployed to their villages.

The AFP repeatedly asked the village officials to submit a list of residents to be recruited as CAFGU and asked foe bamboo stalks for their military encampment. The government troops also threatened them not to join any mass demonstration because they might execute ‘Oplan Tokhang’.

It has already been reported that military officers use the drug war campaign of the Duterte administration, Oplan Tokhang, for their counter-insurgency program. Early this year, suspected supporters of the New People’s Army are being to choose between ‘surrender and receive more than P100,000.00 cash’ and ‘Oplan Tokhang’.

“Sulod-gawas sa komunidad bitbit an mga pusil nira sa atubangan san mga kabataan bisan sa ligid san mga eskwelahan (Military men can freely enter and go out of communities, with their guns in front of our children even beside the school),” Baby Senobio of MAT-NS said.

Protesters harassed by military

While holding a camp-out, more military forces went to the venue of the camp-out to intimidate the farmers as reported by Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas. Just like what the AFP did last October 18 where farmers from San Miguel were blocked to hamper them from attending the petition filing, they also blocked some of the participants from the village of San Francisco.

After the program, residents of Brgy. San Francisco were asked to line up by a certain Staff Sgt. Abiado of the 20th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army and were threatened that the AFP will aim their cannon at the village. A certain Staff Sgt. Abiado of the 20th Infantry Battalion. Some of the soldiers even aimed their guns.

“Diri kinahanglan magdeklara sin Martial Law ni Duterte sa Samar kay inaabat na namon yana an paghahadi san militar sa amon mga lugar (The declaration of Martial Law is not needed in Samar because we already feel the military ruling in our place),” Senobio added.

Despite the evident harassment against them, the farmers still vowed to resist the de facto Martial Law in their province.

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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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