By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Just as typhoon Gener battered the country last month elements of the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) ravaged Ifugao villages in the course of their counter insurgency operations in Tinoc and Asipulo from July 21 to 26.
“The AFP is a man made catastrophe that continuous to devastate indigenous villages in the Cordillera. They are a continuing threat to the people’s livelihood and lives,” Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) Secretary General Jude Baggo stated.
In a recent fact finding mission CHRA validated reports of destruction of the people’s livelihood, divestment of property, torture, theft, illegal search, threat harassment and intimidation perpetrated by operatives of the 86th IB against residents of Asipulo and Tinoc.
Baggo stressed that the devastation perpetrated by AFP operatives in Tinoc and Asipulo is solid proof of the insincerity of their press releases about upholding human rights and implementing projects to help alleviate the poor communities.
“AFP elements can not just destroy the people’s rice fields and other sources of livelihood because of their political beliefs. What will they eat? How will they send their children to school and provide for their family? The AFP operatives’ inhuman acts only aggravated the suffering of the already impoverished farmers of Ifugao,” he stressed.
Residents of Barangay Namal, Asipulo told the CHRA that on July 21, AFP soldiers stomped on their rice plants in the fields and uprooted them. The soldiers told the villagers that was because the palay was planted by NPAs so they have to destroy them.
In the town of Tinoc on the same day, Barangay Binablayan residents complained that soldiers stole goods from a sari-sari store, and on July 25 soldiers stole P850 from another resident of Barangay Gumhang. The victim said the soldiers flagged him down while he was on the road aboard his motorcycle, they listed his bike’s plate number after forcefully taking his cash and accused him that the cash was given by the NPA.
Also in Barangay Binablayan on July 25, a resident was subjected to intense interrogation and psychological torture under torrential rain as AFP soldiers accused him to be an NPA supporter.
Another farmer who was also accused to be an NPA was threatened and interrogated while his farming camp was forcibly searched on the same day. Still another farmer accused to be an NPA supporter was on his way home with his young daughter, a minor on board a motorcycle was stopped and interrogated by soldiers under the heavy rain on July 26. They were released in the evening after pleading for sometime. His daughter contracted fever as a result of the incident.
Baggo reiterated that the AFP operatives should be punished and the AFP should pay for the rice field they destroyed and compensate the farmers. He added that they should also return what they had stolen.
“Planting rice is no joke. It is not as if when you plant today you harvest tomorrow. Given the erratic weather brought about by climate change planting becomes even harder. Their crops withstood typhoon Gener but did not survive the AFP,” he said.
He also pointed out that P850 is very precious to our brothers in these remote villages who suffer from government neglect and poverty. He further stressed that torture is unacceptable as specified in many international human rights treaties. “Even during war, torture is not permitted,” he reiterated.
He added that the soldiers did not identify themselves and were without name tags during the said military operation that the residents did not get their names. He pointed out that not wearing name tags has been the practice of military operatives in the conduct of their counter insurgency operations.
It can be recalled that Capt. Danilo Lalin, the suspect for the rape of at least two minors in Mankayan is also under the 86th IB.
Baggo said while these soldiers go on raping even young girls, torturing innocent civilians and destroying people’s source of livelihood in communities they tag as ‘red areas’, the AFP tries very hard to cover up these inhumane acts by spreading lies and deceit.
“They continue to vilify legitimate peoples organizations in a lame attempt to justify violating the human rights of members and leaders at the same time masquerading as protectors of human rights. But their actions speaks louder. We continue to demand a stop to vilification and other human rights violations as we continue to demand justice for the victims and for perpetrators to be punished,” he added.
Moreover, Baggo reiterated that the Oplan Bayanihan of the present administrations is just a continuation of the previous Oplans of the past administrations. “The AFP and the Aquino government have boasting about the new Oplan saying that it will uphold human rights but the increasing cases of human rights violations proves that the government failed to fulfill its obligation to protect the people’s rights,” he added.
Ifugao Governor Eugene Balitang who also chairs the Regional Peace and Order Council said he “never heard of those violations”. # nordis.net