By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
PARACELIS, Mt. Province — An officer of the 54th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) was sued for harassment and illegally entering the house of Ka Filiw’s aged father before the Barangay Botigue Lupon here.In the barangay hearing last June 18, before the Lupon was 2nd Lt. Roland Carenan who led members of his team, and Leah Benben who filed the case in behalf of her father Pablo Naogsan, 83 years old. The case was filed as Barangay Case number 30 – 2011.
Benben’s complaint stated that on May 27 at around 5:00 o’clock in the morning, a group of armed and uniformed men forcibly entered the house of her father and searched the 1st floor with their guns ready to shoot.
During the hearing, she presented before the Lupon a broken door lock that she said was from her father’s door that was forced open breaking the lock. She said the lock was found on the floor near the door after Carenan and his troops left the house.
Benben said the elder Naogsan narrated to her on that same day what happened. He had just rose from sleep when the soldiers suddenly entered the door breaking the door latch. They had their guns and searched the first floor then suddenly left. The elder was quite frightened and agitatedly told his daughter, “pumatoy cha pay” (they came to kill).
“My father was threatened. His rights were violated by the soldiers, who I thought are protectors of the people,” she said.
Carenan on the other hand belied Benben’s complaint. According to him, that morning, he and his troops arrived in the barangay at around 6:30 in the morning from an operation in Ifugao.
Before that day, he said he had received several text messages from an unregistered mobile number saying that the son of the elder Naogsan, who is a member of the New Peoples Army (NPA) was seen in his father’s house.
He continued that when they saw the old man’s house, he decided to verify the text messages, that is why three squads stayed with him while the others continued walking to their camp outside Botigue. He said, “they knocked at the door but nobody answered until it voluntarily opened.”
Carenan insisted they did not enter the house. They stayed outside for several minutes and resumed walking to their camp. He added that they did not even talk to Naogsan properly because of language difficulty.
Carenan’s statement was supported by a certain Remegio Acfiawen who identified himself as a correspondent of the Manila Star. He claims to have interviewed the elder Naogsan days later after the incident. He alleged that in his interview, the elder Naogsan said that he was not harassed and the military did not enter his house.
However, Benben was firm on her story. She disclosed that when she filed her complaint, Carenan was there and she was able to talk to him. She asked him if they had a proper search warrant when they entered her father’s house. Carenan answered, “Sorry po ma’am, wala po talaga iyon”.
Furthermore, Benben said she doubted the interview of Acfiawen because her father was stone deaf. Sometimes she said, you have to write down what you want to tell him so that he will understand.
“My father is not a liar. He was harassed. If the incident happened to any of you, I doubt if you would be smiling now.” she added.
Benben also asked Carenan if a text message was enough to make them search a residence. Carenan then said ‘yes’. However, he reiterated that they did not enter her father’s house.
Benben then said, “how will the case be resolved if Carenan does not admit to his actions? They harassed an 83-year-old elderman, how much more to any of us”.
The local parish priest made a comment during the hearing and said, “the people may consider this a petty issue because they belittle the incident because it looks like no harm came upon the elder Naogsan but what if there was harm inflicted?”
The hearing ended for the day by requiring Carenan to write an apology “without admitting to the complaint” of harrasment and forcible entry, and compelled him to butcher a pig, and Benben to donate the rice to feed the gathering at the hearing. The case was not decided.
In the gathering, Benben invited Acfiawen to interview her father once again with one other elder who could communicate well with the elder Naogsan to interpret. In this 2nd interview, Naogsan said, the military did enter his house with their guns ready to shoot and made an illegal search on the first floor of his house.
Benben in an interview with Nordis said she was not contented with the result of the hearing. Justice for her father was not attained.
Meanwhile, Jude Baggo the secretary general of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) who attended the hearing said, (of the hearing) that there is a significant advance in the peoples movement because a community member took courage to sue the AFP.
It is an indication that “Hindi na tayo pumapayag na ang ating mga batayang karapatan ay hindi irespeto,” he said. This, he added, is a clear example of the peoples assertion of their rights.
Baggo added that despite the poorly facilitated meeting, it was still a successful hearing because the people came and were able to register their complaints and the AFP was compelled to answer.
This he said should serve as an example to the communities where violations to their rights occur without notice. He challenged them not to be afraid to sue the military like what Benben did.
Ka Filiw, is the nom de guerre of Engineer Simon Naogsan, who has signed press statements sent to media as the official spokesperson of the Cordillera Peoples Democratic Front. # nordis.net