VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur (Mar. 20) — According to a human rights watchdog here, “the province of Ilocos Sur is under intensified militarization as part of the National Internal Security Plan (NISP) being launched by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with the aim to annihilate party lists groups and progressive organizations.”
The Ilocos Human Rights Advocates (IHRA-Karapatan) denounced the relentless militarization here and pointed at the military as the number one human rights violator.
IHRA identified the municipalities of Galimuyod, Candon, Salcedo, Sta. Lucia and Sta. Cruz as the alleged priority areas of the 50th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army to conduct military operations as the AFP identifies as communities influenced by the Communist party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
IHRA reported that the military conducted a census to determine the names of the residents whom they (military) claimed are supporting NPA members. “The military conducted meetings in various barangays and schools where they presented a power point presentation of an AFP briefing “Knowing the Enemy,” where progressive organizations and party lists are labeled as communist fronts and organizations.”
“They also organized students into an Alliance for the Defender of Democracy (ADD), an organization allegedly aimed at fighting communism,” IHRA added.
On March 3, 2007, between 9:00A.M. and 10:00 A.M. elements of the 50th IB approached a member of Stop Exploitation in Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur asking for the whereabouts of the organization’s leaders and questioned him in relation to their activities, including infra-structure projects of the patry list Bayan Muna.
In a Peace Mission Team on March 12, participants claimed that military elements entered San Tiburcio, Salcedo town in Ilocos Sur which scared the people. The Peace Mission was in the area to investigate cases of illegal search and physical assault that happened in the house of a policeman in the barangay, IHRA added.
In the said area, elements of the 50th IBPA Bravo Company were present at that time and were conducting their operations. The Peace Mission was harassed by an element of the 50 th IB by taking pictures of team members despite their resistance, the mission statement added.
Due to the presence of the military, the people were afraid to discuss the atrocities of the military, added Prof. Amante Cabatu, a mission participant claimed in an interview.
The team concluded that the military presence scared the victims and witnesses to revealing the accounts of the incidents.
Sowing terror in the countryside
Albert Lagrimas, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)-Ilocos Spokesperson said, “The Arroyo government and its armed forces are desperate to win the race this 2007 elections. They launch offensives against the people to sow terror in the countryside.”
Lagrimas noted that despite their maneuvers to persecute supporters of progressive partylists, they are bound to fail.
“They (military) will not succeed in their aim to annihilate the people’s movement.” He said. “In fact, their true colors are revealed to the people.”
Lagrimas added that the victory of Bayan muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela Women’s Partylist in 2004 will be repeated in 2007 elections while he concluded: “The clamor to oust a fascist regime shall continue amid brazen attacks against the people’s movement.” # Rod Tajon for NORDIS