Military intrudes farmer’s group meeting in Ilocos Sur

By MONICA CUTIN
www.nordis.net

VIGAN CITY — Barely a week after Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Singson facilitated a dialogue where leaders of Timpuyog ti Umili iti Karayan Buaya (People’s Unity in the Buaya River or TUKB) told the military to stop visiting them, army personnel intruded in their meeting.

Two members of the military came “unannounced and uninvited” while TUKB and the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA) were having a caucus on the human rights situation on August 15, in Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur said IHRA secretary-general Mary Ann Gabayan.

According to her, the soldiers rode a motorcycle without plate number and wearing civilian clothes so they confronted them and asked for their identification. One of them complied, Corporal Benjie Agtarap produced his driver’s license while the other, Jason Domingo, gave his name but refused to show any ID.

RIDING BUDDIES. The two soldiers who gatecrashed the meeting, Agtarap (left) and Domingo (right), said they are not aware that a dialogue transpired between their superiors and the leaders of TUKB. Photo from Ilocos Human Rights Alliance

She said that after giving their identity, Agtarap threatened to sue them if their names appear Northern Dispatch’s story of the incident. Both claimed to be from the Civil-Military Operations (CMO) Company based in Calaoan, Candon City.

Gabayan added that one of the TUKB officers positively identified the two as the same individuals he saw across his house prior to the meeting.

“They said that they were there under orders and to ask TUKB to partner with them in their activities. After tagging members of TUKB as rebel supporters and forcing them to surrender, and calling the organization as a communist front, they expect the officials to collaborate with them?,” she said in mixed Ilokano and Tagalog.

She said the incident showed the insincerity of the military, stressing that in the dialogue last August 9, TUKB chairperson Nick Lacaden already made it clear that they are not interested to work in partnership with the military.

Present during the dialogue were 81st Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Charles DZ Castillo and Capt. Rogelio Domrique, Jr., chief of the CMO unit.

According to Solidarity of Peasants Against Exploitation (Stop Exploitation) chairman Antonino Pugyao, the military can call the incident whatever it wants but for them, it’s a “surveillance operation” and “plain harassment.”

“This incident, just a few days after the dialogue, is an insult to the governor who facilitated the talk,” he said.

He said the actions of the military is intended to demonize and make Stop Exploitation and its members target of attacks by the military and its minions, and sow fear among its members and supporters.

“We will hold the 81st Infantry Battalion and this government responsible if something bad happens to Stop Exploitation members,” Pugyao said.

On August 8, the military made several members of TUKB in Salcedo town sign a paper and take the “oath of allegiance” because Stop Exploitation that the military tagged as a front of the communist rebels influences them. # nordis.net

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