• Baguio City, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines


October 13, 2010

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.#