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Volume 3,  Number 23              July 13 - 19, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines


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Army Soldiers Hack 4; Farmer-Leader May Lose Limb

The recent hacking of four peasant leaders in Baggao town, Cagayan Valley allegedly by Army soldiers has provoked outrage among residents and farmers families alike. The whole town is under martial law, they said, as evidenced by the incident and the presence of hundreds of Army soldiers.

By Northern Dispatch Weekly (NORDIS)
Re-posted by Bulatlat.com

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Cagayan - Various organizations in Cagayan Valley roundly condemned the bloody bolo-hacking of four peasant leaders in Baggao municipality, this province, July 1, allegedly by members of the Philippine Army’s Special Operations Team (SOT) based in the said town.

One of the arms of Joey Javier, chair of CAGUIMUNGAN, province-wide peasant organization, was nearly severed by the bolo hacking. He was reportedly in critical condition due to arm and leg wounds, and may have his arm amputated.

According to a report by human rights alliance, KARAPATAN-Cagayan Valley, Javier and his companions Isabelo Adviento, Ronald Reyes and Benito Abarientos were riding on a kuliglig (mini-tractor that doubles as passenger vehicle) when three SOTmembers of the 5th Infantry Division pounced on them with bolos right in front of the SOT tactical command post in Brgy. Dibulo, Baggao.

The four peasant leaders had come from centro Baggao, where CAGUIMUNGAN was busy preparing for the July 4 ground-breaking ceremonies of Radyo Cagayano. The Baggao-based community radio station, slated to start regular daily broadcasts on August 6, is a project of CAGUIMUNGAN, with funds provided through Rep. Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna).

Farmers’ groups were scheduled to hold a press conference in Baggao Sunday, July 6.

‘The attack was planned’

Adviento, one of the victims, said they noticed two Army soldiers apparently waiting as they crossed the bridge near the command post. 

Pagtapat namin sa command post, may tatlong sundalong parang naglolokohan at may mga dalang itak. Tumakbo sa may harapan ang isa at mistulang naghahabulan sila. Nang kami ay kanilang mapagitnaan, hinarang nila ang aming sasakyang kuliglig at kami ay kanilang pinagtataga.” (As we drove in front of the command post, three soldiers wielding bolos acted like they were gamboling. When we reached their midst, they stopped our kuliglig and started hacking us.)

It was here that Javier was hit. “Kung hindi kami nakatakbo, malamang may mga patay na sa amin” (Were we not able to run, probably some of us would be dead now), Adviento said.

Adviento says that the bloody hacking was “planned by the military.” After Javier collapsed on the ground, he said, a certain Sergeant Pacunla approached the wounded peasant leader and said, “Isardeng mo ngamin ita aramid mon kabayan. Kurang pay ketdi dayta.” (You’d better stop your activities, buddy. That’s just for starters.)

Sinigurado pa niya sa driver ng kuliglig kung kaming apat ay napuruhan lahat” (He even asked the kuliglig driver if all four of us got mortal hits), Adviento said.

The 5th ID SOT based in Baggao, commanded by Capt. George Domingo, has not appeared before the police and media as of presstime. A KARAPATAN-CV report said the victims are preparing charges against the suspected perpetrators.

One of many HR violations

In a statement, the regional peasant alliance Danggayan dagiti Mannalon ti Cagayan Valley (Danggayan ­ CV) strongly condemned the July 1 SOT 5th ID bolo hacking as an “attempted massacre” against the CAGUIMUNGAN leaders.

The statement said Danggayan did not believe that the suspects who hacked Javier were “in hiding and at large.” It’s more probable that like earlier cases of soldiers violating human rights, the culprits will “just be transferred and even promoted,” the statement said.

Danggayan also chided Captain Domingo, the SOT commander, for saying that it was just a case of “personal grudge.” The regional peasant alliance insisted that such violence was part of the general orientation given to AFP soldiers, and that the “command responsibility for the human rights violation goes all the way up to Capt. Domingo and [5th ID commanding officer] General Bagasin.”

According to the KARAPATAN ­ CV report, the 5th ID is “on record as the leading violator of basic human rights of the peasant masses in the entire Cagayan Valley.” The human rights group said the Army division is lumping together all progressive peasant organizations, leaders and individuals as “CPP-NPA members,” who deserved to be exterminated.

The report noted that at present, the 5th ID has five infantry battalions (IB’s) that have “illegally set up military camps” in 13 barangays, namely:

* 45th IB ­ 6 barangays in San Mariano and Quirino, Isabela;

* 77th IB ­ 1 barangay in Quirino, Isabela;

* 21st IB ­ 4 barangays in Quirino, Isabela and Baggao, Cagayan; and

* 54th IB ­ 2 barangays in Nagtipunan, Quirino.

These are in addition to the 41st IB, which is deployed in and around Baggao, Cagayan.

Baggao-based AFP units have long been the target of local farmers’ groups who condemned their alleged abuses and demanded their pullout.

According to the Danggayan ­ CV statement, “There is a long-standing petition of Baggao citizens to dismantle the military camps within barrio centers such as in Brgy. Caruppian, but the Commission on Human Rights and the mayor of Baggao could not do anything.” This, despite CHR’s admission that military camps should not be set up inside populated areas such as barrio centers. 

The Danggayan statement noted that Baggao folk have long been subjected to military harrassment, surveillance, and actual physical abuses. It mentioned a certain Dante Bitagun, allegedly abducted by 41st IB troopers.

According to the Danggayan leaders, Baggao farmers are barely able to stay in their homes whenever they are surrounded by drunk soldiers. Going on trips or even just walking about has become difficult and dangerous, because of the harassment done in checkpoints and because of the curfew hours imposed by the military. “Bombo Radyo is correct. There is martial law in Baggao!” the statement added.

Peasants fighting back

According to Bishop Eulogio Pandongan, KARAPATAN ­ CV chairperson, the worsening violence and violation of basic people’s rights, especially those of the peasants, “only reflect the absence of democracy, justice and freedom in our country.” He said that the military violence and abject poverty are simply pushing the Cagayan Valley peasants to fight back. 

In fact, the Danggayan statement said, the “worsening military violence may be in reaction to the recent advances made by the peasant movement in Cagayan Valley.”

It made particular mention  of its “successful campaign to reduce interests on farm loans and increase corn prices.” Recently too, various peasant organizations formed the Alyansa dagiti Maag-agawan ti Daga (Alliance of Victims of Landgrabbing) to broaden resistance against San Miguel Corp.’s cassava plantation project, the Cagayan Ecozone, and other landgrabbing cases.

Danggayan ­ CV reiterated the following demands: (1) to immediately and impartially investigate the Baggao hacking incident, and to punish the 5th ID SOT culprits; (2) to dismantle AFP camps in Baggao, Cagayan, and in the towns of San Mariano, Ilagan, and Delfin Albano in Isabela; and (3) to stop worsening militarization and HR abuses in the region. Kim N. Quitasol for NORDIS (Re-posted by Bulatlat.com) 

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