Clergy Tagged by Soldiers as NPA Members in Pananuman, Lamag

Even the church is not safe from the recent military occupation of the tri-boundary of Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur provinces.

BY JOHN ERIC B. ESCALANTE
Northern Dispatch
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 15, May 18-24, 2008

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – Even the church is not safe from the recent military occupation of the tri-boundary of Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur provinces.

In a recent press conference of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) at the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) office here, two churchmen revealed that they were tagged by the military as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

During the military operation at the tri-boundary, Deacon Pedro Dungoc from Barangay (village) Pananuman, Tubo, Abra and Father Mario Oplawan from Brgy. Lamag, Quirino, Ilocos Sur said military men were telling the villagers that they are members of the NPA and that they have guns hidden in the church.

“While I was away, the military entered the church, without any permission, searching for weapons,” Oplawan said.

“The military claimed that they found a gun among my personal things,” he added.

According to Oplawan, the military was making up stories to spread fear and hatred against them and the church. The military were allegedly telling the people of Lamag that he (Oplawan) and his sakristan (assistant) are members of the NPA.

Oplawan denied being a member of the NPA and maintained that he does not have any weapon such as a gun. “The church is against the use of bombs and guns,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dungoc said he was interrogated by the military during the military operation in Pananuman. The military asked him questions about the sources of church funds and about the church’s “orientation.”

According to Dungoc, the military told him to admit that he is a member of the NPA.

“They intimidate us by visiting us everyday,” Dungoc added. “They threaten us by saying that we are members of the NPA.”

Several church activities were disrupted during the military operations in the said places. The construction of a fish pond for the community was about to be finished when the military came and built their camp in the same place, said Dungoc.

“They do not respect even the church,” Dungoc said. “They came without any notice or permission from the villagers and then they tag us as NPAs.”

A month after the pullout of troops, Pananuman is still recovering from the severe damage of its crops. Several human rights violations such as forced entry into the villagers’ houses, threats to their lives, aerial bombings over agricultural fields and theft of farm animals were recorded by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Monitor. Northern Dispatch / Posted by (Bulatlat.com)

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