By SHERWIN DE VERA
VIGAN CITY — “Fake news and surrenderees.”
This was how Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA) described the 81st Infantry Battalion’s pronouncements that 36 members of the underground revolutionary movement surrenderred last week in the province.
Among those presented by the military is the group’s focal person in the City of Candon Vilma Abad according to Mary Ann Gabayan, IHRA’s secretary general.
“Forcing civilians to surrender is a clear example of how the AFP persecutes leaders and members of legitimate people’s organizations,” the IHRA official said.
Reports said that nine members of Kabataang Makabayan (KM) from Barangay Legazpi, Galimuyod surrendered to the Community Support Program of the 81st IB. Another group from Barangay Bugnay, composed of ten KM and 17 Samahang Magsasaka members also yielded to the military.
However, Abad’s account provided by IHRA, tells a different story on what transpired in her village Bugnay.
The report said soldiers who encamped in their village for three months under a certain Sergeant Menor pressured Abad, her husband Arnold, their three kids along with other residents to attend a meeting on September 24. During the gathering the soldiers called their names, presented them as “nagbalik-loob” (returned to the folds of the law) and asked them to take an oath of allegiance to the government. Among those presented before the barangay officials are three minors, the youngest of who is 11 years old.
Gabayan, who led the IHRA team who documented the incident, added the military forced Abad and her husband to sign a document just days before they were presented to the barangay officials as “surrenderees”.
Also falsely presented as “communist-terrorist group” member is Rene Tawagen, a former kagawad of Bugnay. According to the group’s report, Tawagen and Arnold are leaders of the local farmers’ organization affiliated with the Solidarity of Peasant Against Exploitation. While the supposed members of the underground group KM, are Anakbayan members.
She also noted the 81st IB required the individuals to report to their battalion headquarters in Bugbuga, Sta. Cruz last September 30.
“Rights violations increases as the AFP struggles to make it appear that Oplan Kapayapaan is effective. This is also a means to justify their huge war budget and the source of money for their pockets by presenting false surrenderees,” explains Gabayan.
The two farmer-leader and others projected by the AFP as “nagbalik-loob” were among the 16 residents of the barangay accused by the 7th Civil Military Operations to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) last June 2017. # nordis.net