By STOP EXPLOITATION
Lt. Col. Eugenio Osias claimed during an interview in a local radio station last July 27 that people’s organizations are hallucinating about human rights and international humanitarian law violations being committed by troops from the 81st Infantry Battalion. On the contrary, it is the colonel that is far detached from reality, intensely hallucinating to be exact, when he claimed that his troops have not breached established local and international standards on human rights.
Osias and his men can try to twist the law and deceive the people, but the letter and spirit of local laws and international instruments are clear, it is the State – represented by the government, that is tasked to protect, promote and uphold human rights. Thus, the breach of human rights are committed when the government and its agents fail to abide by its mandate.
The list of these violations is long, and below are some of the cases documented and filed before the Commission on Human Rights:
* Soldiers from the said unit, then under the command of Lt. Col. Desiderio Alaba threatened and physically assaulted farmers Arnold Bandiwan and Saturnino Habon on September 15, 2012. Both are residents of Brgy. Kinmarin in Salcedo.
* On October 29, 2012, the 81st IB together with the Regional Public Safety Battalion, and Municipal Police of Currimao opened fire to five farmers in Brgy. Cabuusan of the said town. When the shooting stopped, Carlo Magbulos laid dead on the road while Ronald Sadaba was wounded.
* Privates Rey Bajar, Sam Garote and Jaceth Baluyan, all members of the 81st IB filed fabricated cases against Rev. Francisco Bunuan, Jr. in Ferbuary 2015. Bunuan, a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and working for the North Luzon Jurisdiction’s peasant ministry was accused of frustrated and attempted murder. He was implicated in the November 10, 2014 attack of the New People’s Army in Brgy. Bugbuga, Sta. Cruz against the soldiers who were then occupying the barangay hall for more than two months. All the cases were dismissed for lack of evidence.
* From May to August 2016, Corporal Ruby Jaime, who was part of the 81st IB contingent stationed in Quirino introduced himself as Lt. James Bagwis, alternately harassed Save Quirino Movement leaders Raul Farol, Florencio Pacleb, Marcos Pacleb and Ronald Lacbao. Jaime accused the farmers of supporting the New People’s Army.
Besides these cases, Osias’ disregard and utter ignorance of the laws of the land and international treaties concerning the conduct of the military and its operations are evident when he brushed aside the issue of encampment in communities as nothing to be concerned of.
Rule 23 of the Customary International Humanitarian Law states that “it is duty of each party to the conflict to avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.” This provision is set forth in Article 58(b) of Additional Protocol I, to which no reservations relevant to this rule have been made. The unit also has no regard for the laws of the land, specifically Article 10 Section 22 (e) of RA 7610 or the Law on the Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation…, that says “public infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and rural health units shall not be utilized for military purposes such as command posts, barracks, detachments, and supply depots.”
The military’s practice of associating activists and peoples’ organizations to the armed revolutionary movement became clearer with his own words. In the said radio interview, Osias immediately interpreted the issues raised by our organization as mingling with their operations against the NPA when the statement was clear on condemning their actions towards civilians. His pronouncements relating legal people’s organization to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines leaders in The Netherlands and those he claimed that were captured in Baguio City and the National Capital Region, further highlights his motive to red-tag activists and our organization.
Furthermore, elements of the 7th Civil Military Operations Company were never invited by barangay officials in Brgys. Bugnay nor San Isidro, Candon City. Moreover, Sergeant Marvin Tajan, Cpl. Allan Mustiso and Pfc. Alfredo Vallente put the office of Ilocos Human Rights Alliance and Children’s Rehabilitation Center under surveillance from May to June and requested barangay officials to monitor individuals visiting the place. They even gave the barangay officials a list containing the names of 14 STOP Exploitation members from Bugnay. Is it not that when the military place something or someone under surveillance, their purpose for that thing or person also constitute a military action?
Clearly, the pattern by which the military brands and sees our organization and partners, and their blatant disregard of human rights instruments are cause for alarm and concern. These must be exposed and resisted by all those who value democracy, and advocate just and lasting peace. # nordis.net