“The government should recognize the fact that there is insurgency because of social injustice and the inequitable distribution of economic resources in the country. It can only be solved by providing the poor long-term economic security,” said Jazmin Jerusalem, executive director of the Leyte Center for Development, Inc., a non-governmental organization.
Tacloban City, Leyte – An official of a nongovernmental organization here appealed for a stop to military operations to save poverty-stricken peasant villages.
Jazmin Jerusalem, Executive Director of the Leyte Center for Development, Inc. (LCDE), said that instead of intensifying armed conflict in the region, the government should address insurgency through poverty alleviation.
“Due to the intense armed conflict in the region, many peasant communities are forced to flee their homes and sources of livelihood,” she said. Jerusalem said that the poverty situation of the communities was worsened by their displacement.
The LCDE is a nongovernmental organization assisting natural and man-made disaster-stricken communities in Eastern Visayas.
Roni Mabanan, village chief of Brgy. Beri, disclosed that those who did not go back to their villages have become either tenants or farm workers.
“Before the evacuation, these villagers could at least get a daily income of more than a hundred pesos ($1.85 at $1 = 52.78) from tilling their own farms. As tenants, they now only get a daily income of more than P27 ($0.51) since they have to give the landowners 75 percent of their harvest as payment for land rent,” he said.
Mabanan said that those who work as farm laborers are paid Php 50 ($0.95) a day. However, they do not have regular income since they are only hired during the cropping season.
“To get additional income, some of them would offer their services to farmers such as helping the latter in delivering their produce to the market once or twice a week in which they are paid Php 30 ($0.57),” he further said.
In a relief mission in May 19, LCDE distributed goods to peasant families in Brgy. (village) Calapi and neighboring villages in Motiong, Western Samar, where peasants evacuated for fear of attacks from suspected military men.
To date, most villagers have returned to their homes upon orders from a certain Lt. Agoy. About 15 families, however, opted to stay permanently in Brgy. Calapi and nearby barrios for fear for their lives.
On March 6, more than a hundred families from the villages of Beri, San Andres and Sto. Ni?o in Motiong (two-hour travel by bus from Tacloban City) were forced to evacuate and sought refuge in Brgy. Calapi because of the series of killings, abduction and bombings by suspected soldiers.
On the evening of March 5, Noel Labong, a farmer in Brgy. San Andres was shot dead by three suspected soldiers. The victim’s wife recalled that at about 9 p.m., three men wearing bonnets and plainclothes barged into their house, dragged the victim outside, and shot him on the head.
A villager testified that he saw a man in military uniform standing in front of Labong’s house just before the shooting incident. Suspected soldiers later abducted Labong’s brother Levi, who remains missing.
On March 2, another farmer, Antonio Mabilog, was beaten up by three men in military uniform while he and his wife were working on their farm. The suspects tried to force the victim to lead them to the rebels’ camp.
On the same day, suspected soldiers burned the house owned by Segundo Gabane. Some 30 sacks of kalinayan, a good variety of upland rice, with an estimated market value of Php 24,000 ($454.71) were also burned.
Village chief Alnario Gabane said the villagers reported to him that just before the incident, Army troopers arrived in the barrio and headed to Gabane’s house.
“The government should recognize the fact that there is insurgency because of social injustice and the inequitable distribution of economic resources in the country. It can only be solved by providing the poor long-term economic security,” Jerusalem said. (Bulatlat.com)