AQUINO’S 1ST 100 DAYS AND THE ROAD TO PERIL
In the first 100 days of President Benigno Aquino III’s rule, there has
been no respite in the State’s assault of the people’s rights. Since
June 30, 2010, there have been at least 16 cases of extrajudicial
killings and 2 cases of enforced disappearance. 43 healthworkers still
unjustly languish in jail along with more than 300 others who imprisoned
because of their political beliefs. Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) remains as
a National State Policy backed with a larger budget for the operations
of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and support from the
government of the United States of America as outlined in its
counter-insurgency manual. Two days ago, on October 11, 2010, the
Supreme Court declared the Human Security Act constitutional further
allowing the State to train its guns on members and leaders of legal
people’s organizations it labels as its enemies and unjustly brands as
“terrorists”. The militarization of communities continues.
In Lacub, Abra, the 41st Infantry Battalion (IB) of the AFP committed a
series of human rights violations in the conduct of their operation last
September 10-16 of this year.
On September 10, elements of the 41st IB coerced two (2) residents of
Kilob, Lacub, Abra to serve as military guides in their operation. The
two who were fishing at that time, were ordered, at gunpoint, to guide
the group of about 50 soldiers, some of whom wore dark colored clothes
and rain boots and not their camouflage army uniforms to a certain cave.
Both victims protested and informed them that there was no cave in the
vicinity. The soldiers however, insisted that there was one in the area
and forced the two to guide them. After walking about 200 meters from
their fishing camp, the soldiers who spoke in the local dialect and whom
the two believe to be from Kalinga instructed them to return. A
tagalog-speaking soldier protested but the decision of the Kalinga
soldiers prevailed. Upon return to their fishing camp, the victims
noticed that their hammock was missing.
On September 11, elements of the 41st IB headed by a certain Lt. de los
Santos threatened 3 farmers who were on their way home after gathering
fish and eel in Buneg, Lacub, Abra. Soldiers fired their guns at the
direction of the three who were ordered to take a different route home
after they were accosted and their bags illegally searched. The
victims were asked, “Apay mabalin makita dagiti bag yo?” (Can we see
your bags?) and “Apay, ayanna ti kampo ti NPA (New Peoples Army) ditoy?
“ (Where is the NPA camp here?)
This was followed by an incident on September 13 where the soldiers
belonging to the Bravo Company of the 41st IB physically assaulted a
farmer/small-scale miner in Dagni, Buneg, Lacub, Abra who was going to
his pocketmine that day. After accosting the farmer/small-scale miner,
he was hit by the soldiers at both sides of his torso. His bag was
illegally searched and the soldiers took the plastic holding one (1)
kilogram of salt and also eight (8) pieces of the twelve (12)pieces of
tobacco leaves they got out from his bag. These were supplies he was to
share with his fellow pocketminers. They threw his bag to the ground
after seizing the said supplies.
Striking in these incidents are the accounts of the victims that the AFP
have attempted to introduce themselves first as members of the New
People’s Army (NPA).
These incidents have threatened the people’s security. The military
presence and operations now have to be considered by the Binongan
indigenous people when they conduct their activities in their ancestral
domain. It is not as easy for them to go to the forests to hunt, to go
to their swidden farms or to their mines because they might suffer the
same fate as the victims of these recent violations or be subjected to
worse. This situation impacts as well on the produce they are able to
gather for their families.
Some communities in the Cordillera have reported the same mode of
military operations and also a deceitful approach by the AFP as they
attempt to justify their extended presence in communities. The AFP have
made use of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with local government units
for them to be part of the counter-insurgency campaign and also use the
resources of these institutions in their military operation. While the
labeling as terrorists/enemies of the State remain against members and
leaders of people’s organizations that are critical of the anti-people
policies of the government, the goal of this approach is still to crush
these organizations and repress human rights for their agenda,
especially for imperialist plunder, to prevail.
This is not the righteous path to justice that the people had hoped for.
The continuing onslaught against the people’s rights has to stop and the
perpetrators of the violations have to be held accountable and punished
accordingly. More importantly, the Aquino government must abandon the
OBL and the US counterinsurgency plan. OBL and the US
Counter-insurgency program will never pave the way for peace and address
the roots of the armed conflict. These will instead, pave the way for
peril for his administration. The disrespect for human rights, which is
essential for the government to uphold, will make the people rise as
they clamor and seek for justice.#
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance