A Cry for Justice

The family of Sofronio “Tatay Poloy” Enoc, the peasant leader who was killed among five others in a massacre on April 15, 2002, in Pangyan, Marilog District, is still hopeful that justice will finally come.

By Marilou M. Aguirre

DAVAO CITY — Unmindful of her condition, Sofronita Enoc-Ingay, eight-month pregnant with her third child, traveled straight from her home in the mountainous area of Calinan District to the office of a farmers’ association in this city, to share her family’s grief.

The 44-year-old Nang Nita, the eldest daughter of Sofronio “Tatay Poloy” Enoc, the peasant leader who was killed among five others in a massacre on April 15, 2002, in Pangyan, Marilog District, is still hopeful that her family’s more than three-year wish would finally come true: justice for her father and the rest of the victims.

Nang Nita’s pain over the loss of a loved one, especially one who was their home’s haligi (foundation), is still evident in her eyes. Even though three years had already passed, they have not fully recovered, she said.

“Our case has long been forgotten,” Nang Nita lamented. “But I understand that one can do nothing if the government is the enemy.”

She recalled that about two years before her father was killed, elements of the 73rd Infantry Battalion went to their farm. “The military accused us of supporting the New People’s Army,” she said. “They grabbed my father, who was covered with mud from the rice paddy. I was so helpless and was so frightened because they were armed with rifles. All I did was cry.”

Nang Nita did not recognize the perpetrators because, according to her, they had no name cloths. That memory haunts her to this day, she said.

The Pangyan Massacre is only one of the many unsolved cases of human rights violations (HRVs) perpetrated by the elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and paramilitary forces in Southern Mindanao.

According to the human rights’ group Karapatan, between January 2001 and December 2005, 680 HRV cases were recorded in the region. These cases involved 20,860 individual victims, 678 families, 48 communities and two towns. Poor peasants, indigenous peoples, urban poor, political activists, leaders and members of progressive organizations, and individuals who were vocal against the government of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo comprise the list of victims.

The HRV cases recorded by Karapatan include killings, indiscriminate firing, desecration of remains, abduction or enforced disappearance, physical assault, illegal arrest, illegal search, rape, grave threats, torture, extortion, coercion, harassment, assault at the picket line, hamletting, food blockade, denial of medical attention, use of civilian in military operations, violation of domicile, divestment of properties, forced evacuation, forced recruitment, destruction of properties, forced surrender, denial of decent burial and criminalization of political offenses.

Those who allegedly committed these grave rights abuses, like Loreto Palma, remain scot-free.

Palma, the former NPA rebel who turned into a Cafgu (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit) member, allegedly led the killing of Enoc. He had been indicted but was allegedly protected by the military. Nang Nita said that Palma was even promoted by the 73rd IB to private first class from being a mere Cafgu member. Palma is said to accompany the military during their operations in the Malagos, Calinan area.

Palma and the 73rd IB had also accused known progressive leader Alvin Luque with rebellion. Palma said Luque, together with Rep. Joel Virador of Bayan Muna and Maximino Goc-ong of the Farmers Association of Davao City (FADC), were NPA supporters. Only Luque had been indicted for alleged rebellion; his case has not been solved.

According to Ariel Casilao, secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao, the state of human rights under Arroyo is the worst among all administrations. It has even surpassed the record of the Marcos dictatorship, he said.

“Karapatan believes that hers is worse than Marcos’s dictatorship because she portrays her government to be upholding democracy and the people’s rights to freedom of speech, peaceful assembly and other rights mandated by the 1987 Constitution, when it practice, the opposite is happening,” Casilao said.

What makes the HRV cases under the current government stand out, Casilao said, is that Arroyo had justified these as part of her war against terrorism. This war, he said, is directed at the civilian populace, especially the Moro people, poor peasants and indigenous peoples.

The government’s counter-terrorism campaign has resulted in not only red-baiting or the outright tagging of legitimate organizations as legal fronts of the Communists, who have been designated as terrorists by the government. This is the reason why many leaders and members of progressive groups have been murdered, Casilao said.

Based on Karapatan’s records, 21 of its human rights workers have been killed under the current government.

According to Jeppie Ramada, Bayan Muna’s regional spokesman, “coddling a butcher like Gen. Jovito Palparan is a blatant manifestation that the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration is determined to continue state terrorism as a national policy. Under this administration, there are no signs that political killings will stop.”

He criticized Arroyo for promoting military, police or paramilitary personnel who were accused of rights violations, like Palparan. He also lambasted her for implementing policies, like the Calibrated Preemptive Response and Executive Order 464, which had been deemed unconstitutional because they were used to violate the people’s right to peaceful assembly and obstruct the ferreting out of truth, among others.

Arroyo’s efforts to hasten the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill in the Congress also raised the fear that the killings of civil libertarians will escalate, as well as the militarization in the countryside. (Bulatlat.com)

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