Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VII, No. 11      April 22- 28, 2007      Quezon City, Philippines

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HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

Rampage in Central Luzon
A bad first quarter for human rights in the region

A 59-year old widow was killed, five people were abducted and another two barely escaped failed abduction attempts in Central Luzon in the first quarter of the year. The incidents prompted militants to raise an alarm over the resurgence of ‘death squads’ and call for an end to the government’s Oplan Bantay Laya II counterinsurgency campaign.

BY ABNER BOLOS
Gitnang Luzon News Service
Posted by Bulatlat

Shara Hizarsa, 10, a grade five pupil in Ilwas Elementary School in Subic, Zambales waits for her father everyday to bring her lunch and for them to partake of the meal together in the school grounds.

Her father Abner, 55, a former political detainee and a local campaigner of the Anak Pawis party rides a three-wheeler bike from their house just around the corner to bring the meal.

On March 22, at about 11:30 a.m., two-armed men accosted Abner as he emerged from the alley leading to the national highway and brought him to a waiting white L-300 van. Abner has not been seen since that day.

Shara, waited patiently in school that day thinking that her father was only late for some reason. But her hunger turned into shock and grief when she was called at the school office and told that her father has been abducted.

Five days later on March 27, two abductions occurred simultaneously at dawn in Tarlac and Pampanga. Josephine Nogoy, 32, was taken at gunpoint by armed men at about 1 a.m. from her sister-in-law’s house in Barangay Iba, San Jose, Tarlac. Nogoy has just given birth last January via caesarean operation to twins--both baby girls. She was recuperating when she was abducted.

Vans and ski masks

About 15 armed men on board two vans and wearing ski masks, gloves and black long sleeves barged into the homes of two of Nogoy’s sisters-in-law. They grabbed Nogoy at gunpoint and brought her into one of the waiting vans.

On that same day at around 3 a.m., 15 armed men wearing ski masks on board a green XLT van and a stainless owner-type jeep abducted Villamor Adona, a 63-year old widower and his companion in Barangay San Isidro, Sta. Ana, Pampanga. The assailants carried rifles with red laser tracer lights. Adona and his unidentified companion remain missing.

On March 2 at around 7:30 a.m., Felisa Ocampo, a 59-year old widow and a Bayan Muna (People First) party coordinator was shot in the head as she was walking in front of her sister’s store in Barangay Poblacion, Morong, Bataan.

As she fell to the ground, the gunmen made sure she was dead and threatened those who rushed to the scene not to make any move. The gunmen rode away in a car with two others waiting inside and two in a motorcycle.

On February 6, Samuel Clemente, 56, a former political detainee, was taken by armed men who identified themselves as police inside a private subdivision in Barangay San Roque, Tarlac City. The assailants drove away in a green L-300 van taking Clemente’s motorcycle with them. The victim remains missing.  

Failed abductions

Dory Mendoza, deputy secretary-general of the militant Bayan-Bulacan, barely escaped soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 56th Infantry Battalion in Barangay San Rafael IV, San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan.

A truckload of soldiers arrived in the evening of March 13 and started searching for her in the area as well as in the adjoining barangay of Kaypian, including Towerville, Palmera, Pabahay and other subdivisions after she gave a lecture on voters’ education to residents. Mendoza eluded her assailants with the help of residents who hid her from the soldiers.

At about 10 p.m. on February 26, four Armalite-wielding men wearing ski masks forcibly entered the home of Eduardo Macapagal, 54, a fishpond owner, in Barangay Bulaus, Masantol, Pampanga and tried to take him away.

The assailants relented when Macapagal’s family literally held on to him and refused to let him go. The vehicle the abductors used was a barangay service vehicle borrowed by the soldiers from an adjacent village.

Renewed attacks

These cases were culled from records of Karapatan-Central Luzon and from interviews with families of the victims. Six of the incidents occurred in March while two transpired in February. They happened in five of Central Luzon’s seven provinces namely, Zambales, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bataan and Bulacan.

Roman Polintan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Gitnang Luson (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance) chairperson said in a statement that the incidents “signal the renewed attacks of military death squads on activists and ordinary civilians.”

Karapatan-Central Luzon has documented at least 144 cases of extra-judicial executions and 48 cases of abductions or enforced disappearances in the region from 2001 when President Arroyo took power up to 2006. Central Luzon is one of the regions that registered the highest number of human rights violations that has wracked the country during the term of President Arroyo.  

All of the victims in the recent cases are leaders, supporters or sympathizers of militant party list groups Bayan Muna and Anak Pawis (Toiling Masses). They are also being suspected by the military to have links with the New People’s Army. The incidents also occurred in areas where the military is undergoing operations against the NPA.

“We are apprehensive that this systematic violence would again escalate as the election draws near. It is very evident that this is intended to strike fear on the electorate to prevent them from voting for our party-lists,” Polintan said.

OBL II

Karapatan and Bayan-CL have also denounced the incidents saying they were committed “in pursuit of the government’s Oplan Bantay Laya II” (OBL II).

OBL II is the government’s counterinsurgency program aimed at defeating the communist insurgency by the end of President Arroyo’s term in 2010.

A document from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which was recently leaked to media showed that attacking militant party list groups is part of the government’s drive to crush the NPA.

The document entitled “SPECIAL SOT PROJECT: COUNTER PARTY-LIST AT THE BARANGAY COUNCIL (12 MONTHS IMPLEMENTATION)” lists several measures aimed at “neutralizing” the “communist threat” including “special operations-Palparan model.” 

“This government deserves the strongest condemnation for causing the deaths and disappearances of a growing number of civilians in the region in the course of its counterinsurgency plan. (The government) must scrap OBL and focus on the needs of the people,” Roman said.

The AFP hierarchy have repeatedly denied having a hand in the extra-judicial killings and disappearances and that it is attacking unarmed militant groups.Gitnang Luzon News Service/posted by Bulatlat 

 

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