HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Presidents and the Lupao Massacre
town of Lupao in Nueva Ecija province was the site of a massacre where
government soldiers under President Corazon Aquino killed 17 peasants in
1987. The same town is now reeling under a “continuing massacre” – the
onslaught of killings and abductions of civilians by suspected military
agents under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s counterinsurgency
Gitnang Luson News Service
Posted by Bulatlat
the site of the Lupao massacre
LUPAO, Nueva Ecija -Young rice grow robust in rice paddies in a small
wooded hill in Sitio (sub-village) Padlao. But there are no houses here,
only a lone abandoned hut and a haystack stand. Old cement structures on
the ground bear witness to what used to be a community before the infamous
Lupao massacre 19 years ago.
On Feb. 10, 1987, a platoon of government troops killed 17 farmers and
their families including six children and two septuagenarians in Sitio
Padlao, Barangay Namulandayan, Lupao, Nueva Ecija in retaliation for the
death of their commanding officer who was sniped by New People’s Army
The carnage happened a year after the historic “people power” uprising
installed Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino as president in February 1986. Aquino
shortly after unsheathed the “sword of war” against the Marxist-led
rebellion and unleashed a vicious attack that victimized mostly civilians.
The incident came to be known as the Lupao massacre, and shocked the world
along with Aquino’s declaration of “total war” against the very same
people who helped her become president. The 24 soldiers of the 14th
Infantry Battalion were tried before a military court. They were all
Before Aquino’s term ended in 1992, some 50 right-wing vigilante groups
backed by the military sprouted all over the country. A long wave of
human rights abuses resulted in the death of some 1,064 people mostly
farmers and workers, the disappearance of at least 830 people and 135
cases of massacres.
Like now President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Aquino reaped harsh criticisms
from local and other foreign human rights watch groups including Amnesty
Aquino failed to quell the popular movement demanding land, jobs and
justice. By all indications, Arroyo, who also became president via a
popular uprising in 2001, is headed the same way.
Igmedio Facunla, secretary general of Alyansa
ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL-NE, Central Luzon Peasant Alliance-Nueva
Ecija chapter) recalls that after the Lupao massacre, Namulandayan
was practically deserted but the residents came back in trickles over the
years as military operations waned.
In October last
year, 30 more families went back to the village and started tilling the
land. They harvested and planted new crops but now everything has become
uncertain for the farmers because of intense military operations, Facunla
repeated. Abuses from military operations sow fear in the villages and
farmers are forced to leave their farms,” Facunla said.
Lupao is one of
the towns in Nueva Ecija province reeling from a fresh onslaught of
killings and abductions which have gripped the Central Luzon region since
Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan vowed to crush the armed revolutionary movement
before he retires next month.
Ragaza, Lupao town parish priest who accompanied reporters to Namulandayan
last week, pointed to a building near the school in the village center as
he drove. “That’s the village hall the soldiers use as their detachment.
It’s there where the interrogations take place,” he said.
SUPPLY RUN-OUT: “There are no more cedulas,” the sign posted at the
door of this office at the Lupao Municipal Hall says, as an employee
soldiers have encamped in eight of the 20 villages in Lupao, including
Namulandayan and Parista. Ragaza said the soldiers have a list of names of
residents that they summon to the detachment for interrogations. He said
that about 20 residents of Namulandayan who are in the list have not been
seen since then and may have left the village out of fear.
Ragaza is known
to be the only priest in Nueva Ecija province who goes to the detachments
whenever a parishioner who has been summoned by soldiers asks for his
help. He knows first-hand that people get hurt during interrogations.
“I was outside
(the interrogation room). But I can hear blows being dealt on the person
and his pleas for the beating to stop,” he said recalling the
interrogation of a farmer who sought his help at the detachment in
Namulandayan. He said the victim’s four-year old child was a witness to
the interrogation and since then, he has asked the soldiers not to do the
interrogations in front of children.
Last August 9,
Ragaza attended a dialogue between church leaders led by Bishop Mylo
Vergara and military officers under General Palparan. Palparan himself
attended the dialogue. In the dialogue, the church leaders told the
military officers that they have a right to assist their parishioners and
must not be prevented nor be placed under suspicion.
asserts that recent events in Lupao and in the rest of the province are a
“continuing massacre” of peasants and other civilians.
transfer of Palparan in Central Luzon in September last year, some 21
civilians, mostly peasant leaders, have been killed in extra-judicial
executions and eight people have been abducted and remained missing in the
province, according to Karapatan-Nueva Ecija, a local rights watch group.
The most recent
victim is village council member
Julie Velasquez, who was shot and killed by suspected military agents on
the night of Aug. 16 at a wake near a detachment of the 71st IB
in Barangay Culong, Guimba town.
Mother and son Tessie and Rodel Abellera, both Bayan Muna activists who
were abducted last July 13 in Barangay Parista, Lupao remain missing, as
well as Philip Dela Cruz who was abducted also in Parista last July 20.
Mario Florendo was killed in his home in the same village last July 3.
Facunla observed that what happened during the Aquino administration is
happening today. “Without military presence, farmers are able to improve
their lives through self-help and tilling their farms. When soldiers come,
they are attacked and their efforts are disrupted. The soldiers’ excuse is
always that the farmers are supporting the NPA,” he said
There are other historical parallels in the counter-insurgency effort of
both the Aquino and Arroyo governments.
Palparan, whom Arroyo commended in her State of the Nation Address for his
fight against “the night of terror” in Central Luzon, had played a key
role in Aquino’s counter-insurgency campaign, in the same region.
Palparan earned his spurs as a counter-insurgency expert in the late 1980s
and early 1990s in Pampanga where as a junior officer he commanded the 24th
IB. Today, the 24th IB is under the 7th Infantry
Division, the command that covers the Central Luzon region, and which
Palparan heads until his retirement.
post-Marcos period, terms like “salvaging” and “vigilante groups” became
widely used during Palparan’s time in the late 1980s. He has been blamed
in Pampanga for the killing of a number of progressive personalities
including lawyer Ram Cura in Angeles City. The vigilante group Angel
Simbulan Brigade also appeared during his time in Pampanga.
and personalities identified with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan,
New Patriotic Alliance) bore the brunt of human rights abuses during this
period. The military claims Bayan is a front organization of the Communist
Party of the Philippines.
During the 1980s, in the aftermath of the U.S. defeat in the Vietnam War,
U.S. military policy shifted to the “low intensity conflict” (LIC)
doctrine. Instead of direct involvement of American troops in combat,
local troops of “host” countries were trained to fight “proxy wars” with
The Aquino government adopted this policy and called it “total war”
against the communist-led armed rebellion but failed to crush it.
Today’s “war on terror” promoted by George W. Bush is the wellspring of
Arroyo’s “all-out war” against the CPP and the NPA which she declared last
June. But the policy, outlined in the government’s counterinsurgency
program Oplan Bantay Laya, appears to be doing damage only to civilians
and not the armed rebels.
Media reports tend to show that the NPAs continue to attack government
troops, outposts and detachments.
As civilian casualties mount, Arroyo’s desire to crush the insurgency in
two years, or at most, before her term ends in 2010 appears to be getting
War against the people
For peasant leader Facunla, the people of Lupao have seen the worst of the
government’s past counterinsurgency campaigns and have lived through them.
“The Arroyo government is waging war against its own people. The orphans
and the widows, and the other victims of political repression are in
unbearable pain right now. But the dark night will end,” he said.
He said that “a government who makes war with its own people cannot last
and those who survive the nightmare will continue the struggle.”
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© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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