From Jan to Nov 2005
First of two parts
With almost 100,000 victims of human rights violations, the Macapagal-Arroyo administration proves to have no mercy on political forces calling for the ouster of an illegitimate presidency. With nowhere to go for redress, the victims were constrained to go to two people’s courts this year in their search for justice.
BY DABET CASTAÑEDA
Tension in Aeta area
There was tension among the Aeta (an indigenous tribe) residents of Barangay Camias in Porac, Pampanga, after two 10-wheeler trucks arrived in the early morning of Dec. 8. The long shout of the tribe’s leader was the signal for the members of the community to go out of their houses and to gather in front of a Baptist church where the two trucks were parked.
More than 100 Aeta families assembled. They were relieved to know that those who alighted from the trucks were members of the mercy mission organized by the Alay Bayan, Inc. (ABI), a foundation assisting natural and man-made disaster-stricken areas.
Sr. Cecil Ruiz, ABI executive director, said her organization received reports that for almost four months since September, Army and Air Force soldiers conducted zoning operations in the area supposedly to rescue Maj. Neptune Eliquin of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) who was reportedly captured by the New People’s Army (NPA) in late August this year.
“Napabayaan na namin yung mga tanim namin dahil hindi na kami makapunta sa bukid,” (We were unable to take care of our crops because we cannot go to our farms) one the residents said during a random interview by Bulatlat. “Yung konti naming naani hindi na namin naibenta sa mga mamimili sa palengke,” (We were unable to market the few crops we were able to harvest) one of the residents said.
For two days since the soldiers arrived, they could not eat due to fear. They were also forbidden by the soldiers from speaking in Kapampangan, the local dialect, and ordered to speak in only in Tagalog so the soldiers could understand.
A mother, who carried her one-year old child using a cheesecloth tied around her waist and neck, said they did not go out of their house out of intense fear. She added that her children stopped going to school for a several days because even the teachers were afraid to come out.
The community had reason to be afraid.
In midnight of Sept. 16, Bienvenido Capuno, their village chair, was shot dead by three unidentified men believed by the villagers to be soldiers. A witness who refused to be identified said Capuno and four other village officials were manhandled and dragged around the community when around a hundred soldiers came in early September to search for Eliquin.
“Sabi ng mga sundalo tinatago daw namin yung mga NPA,” (According to the soldiers, we were hiding the NPA rebels) the witness said. A week before the killing happened, he heard a soldier whom he identified only as “Tisoy” telling Capuno, “Mukhang may underground ka sa utak mo. Balang araw utak mo ang pasasabugin ko.” (It appears that you have “underground” in your brain. Someday, I will shoot your brains out.) Underground, he said, referred to the underground revolutionary movement.
The witness said Capuno was shot twice in the head while he was sleeping in the small videoke bar he owned and operated in Barangay Pio, a neighboring village.
Villagers admired Capuno who opposed the community’s demolition due to mining and eco-tourism.
Overall human rights picture
The fear and anxiety felt in this Aeta community are echoed in hundreds of communities in the Philippine countryside that have been under siege mainly due to military operations.
The human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) said that from January to Nov. 30, there were 872 cases of human rights violations recorded, with 99,003 victims in 288 communities.
The most frequent types of human rights violations were forcible evacuation/displacement, strafing and indiscriminate firing, and threat, harassment and intimidation. (See Table 1)
Based on these figures, there were 12 people whose rights were violated every hour, or 296 people every day, in the first eleven months of 2005.
According to Karapatan, 150 people were killed in the first eleven months of the year. They were victims of summary execution, assassination, massacre, strafing, indiscriminate firing and bombings. In 2004, Karapatan documented 63 political killings.
In its 2005 Human Rights Report, Karapatan said that it monitored heavy military presence in areas perceived by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as strongholds of armed revolutionary groups like the NPA, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
In the latter part of November, at least 2,000 families have been reportedly affected by military operations in seven municipalities in Quezon province (more than 100 kilometers south of Manila) due to the military’s pursuit operations against the NPA.
In southern Philippines, Moro communities in Sulu was turned into a garrison when the AFP conducted massive military operations against the MNLF in February and November, Karapatan’s Sulu Mercy Mission Report said.
Mining, logging and military operations
The concentration of military operations are focused in areas where there are strong resistance to government-business joint ventures or businesses of multinational companies especially in mining and logging, the Karapatan report added.
“It was no coincidence,” the report said, “that a few months after intensive military operations in Samar, The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) lifted the logging ban in the area.”
The residents of Samar, one of the three main islands in Eastern Visayas (Central Philippines), became victims of offensive military operations from February to August 2005 under command of controversial Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan. During this period, 25 persons were killed and 31 others were abducted and still missing.
In Tarlac (120 km. North of Manila), 13 individuals were killed given their involvement in the 13-month strike at Hacienda Luisita that started in Nov. 2004. The workers and residents of the 6,400-hectare sugar estate owned by the family of former President Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino have been demanding better working conditions and opposing land conversion schemes and Macapagal-Arroyo’s pet project, the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway Project (SCTEP).
Assassinations, disappearances, massacres
Like Capuno, several local officials known to be supportive of the people’s struggles have been targeted for assassination and similar harassment.
Tarlac lost City Councilor Abelardo Ladera and Barangay (village) Captain Ricardo Ramos who were both killed by snipers believed to be members of the military’s death squad.
A fact-finding mission in Villareal, Samar in the middle of this year found a supposed military hit list that included municipal officials from the mayor down to the lowest village official. In fact, 50-year-old Constancio Calubid, a member of the Barangay San Andres Peacekeeping Council, was tortured by soldiers in front of his family and then abducted. He was found dead a month later. (Bulatlat.com)