By KYLE EDWARD FRANCISCO
CANDON CITY — The Timpuyog ti Umili ti Karayan Buaya (People’s Unity in the Buaya River or TUKB) urged Ilocos Sur Governor Ryan Singson to stand with them against the continuing threat and harassment of the 81st Infantry Battalion to its leaders and members.
TUKB Chairman Nick Lacaden appealed to the governor, and municipal and barangay officials to act on the matter and demand the military to stop persecuting their organization in a statement written in Ilokano and dated August 23.
According to him, the military intensified its persecution their officials and members despite the dialogue last August 9 facilitated by the provincial government between the group and the 81st IB.
He said the soldiers failed to comply with the instruction of the governor “to respect their work” as an organization advocating people’s issues.
The latest incident according to him involved 19 of their members from Barangay Lucbuban, Salcedo. He said the 81st IB forced the farmers to sign papers and pledge support to the “peace and development program” of the government.
“Lt.Col. Charles Castillo, the commanding officer of the 81st IB boasted that 19 individuals pledge support to the peace and development program of the government and not to be deceived by CPP-NPA-NDF,” he said.
“The truth is, the 81st IB arrived at Lucbuban and called 19 of our members who were surprised when they learned of their objective,” he added.
According to Lacaden, when the individuals got angry and refused to sign the documents, the soldiers threatened to include their names in the list of rebel supporters.
After the dialogue attended by Castillo and Civil-Military Operations Officer Capt. Rogelio Domrique, Jr., TUKB expected the military to cease from harassing and intimidating their members. However, Lacaden said that day after the talks Corporal Benjie Agtarap and Jayson Domingo visited and threatened the treasurer of the organization in Nangalisan, Sta. Lucia. The two also intruded on the TUKB meeting in Sta. Lucia and insisted on partnering with the activities of the organization.
“From August 12 to 15, the same intelligence officers visited and threatened two TUKB Board of Directors in Conconig East, Sta. Lucia and secretary in Maligcong, Salcedo,” he said.
The TUKB leader also noted that despite the acknowledgment made by military officials on the prohibition of setting camp inside communities, the 81st IB and the PNP Regional Special Mobile Force put up camps in the villages of Lucbuban, Sorioan, and Ubbog in Salcedo on August 13.
He said they are against soldiers encamping inside the communities because they only bring problems.
“Besides harassing their leaders and members, soldiers also engage in sexual relationships with minors and even married women, and disrupt our livelihood,” he explained.
Lacaden pointed out TUKB reaped many victories for their members since its establishment in 2003 citing relief operations during calamities, rehabilitation of Buaya River, and the construction and repair of their communal irrigation systems.
According to him, “these good deeds of the organization are the reason why the 81st IB is persecuting” their organization, noting the military claims these actions as proofs of being a rebel front.
“This is the evil effect of Oplan Kapantagan, the counter-insurgency program of President Duterte because legal organizations like us are being targeted to silence and demolish us. They use violence to force us to surrender and pledge loyalty even if we are not members of the CPP-NPA,” he said. # nordis.net