Fact-Finding Mission Confirms Reports of Rights Violations in Negros Town

A fact-finding mission organized by the regional office of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), the Promotion of Church People’s Rights (PCPR) and the Kapunungan Alang sa Ugma sa Gagmayng Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros (KAUGMAON) has confirmed massive human rights violations against the peasants in the countryside of Sta. Catalina town in Negros Oriental.

BY EDMUND B. SESTOSO
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Contributor

Bulatlat


A fact-finding mission organized by the regional office of Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), the Promotion of Church People’s Rights (PCPR) and the Kapunungan Alang sa Ugma sa Gagmayng Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros (KAUGMAON) has confirmed massive human rights violations against the peasants in the countryside of Sta. Catalina town in Negros Oriental.

The three-day fact-finding mission (Sept. 13-15) had been organized in response to the initial report of bombings, intensified military operations and massive rights abuses.

The team had documented and verified numerous cases of human rights violations.

“Even the human rights workers who verified the data were harassed and held by the terrorist Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for almost two hours,” said Joseph Leo Lagorra, coordinator of the PCPR

Records from the team members also bared that in Sitio (sub-village) Payao-Payawan, Brgy. Nagbinlod of Sta. Catalina, they have one case of frustrated murder, one case of indiscriminate firing, one illegal interrogation, one physical assault, one case of destruction of property, three cases of forced servitude, five cases of illegal arrest  and detention, five cases of torture, five cases of illegal search and seizure, five violations of domicile and ten cases of threats/harassment/intimidation.

Jean Suarez of Karapatan-Central Visayas also disclosed that the team was able to document 28 families that were displaced from Sitios (sub-villages) Igang, Omol, Bayog, Lambo, Tagaytay to Payao-Payawan and another  27 families from various Sitios of Kang-Gabok to Kang-Gabok Elementary School due to the bombing incident last week.

Fermin Lorico, chairperson of the KAUGMAON, an affiliate of the nationwide Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP or Peasant Movement of the Philippines) said that the situation obviously adds to the burden of the farmers in Negros Oriental who have been suffering from poverty and insecurity of their farmlands and produce.

“It was a distressful experience, evacuating from their homes and suffering the harassments done by the military during the alleged encounter between the New People’s Army and AFP last Sept. 8 of this year,” the fact-finding team members said in a statement released to the media recently.

The fact-finding mission has confirmed earlier reports of human rights violations sent to Dumaguete-based media.

The military hierarchy earlier tried to hide the real situation from the public by telling the media that there were no evacuation and harassments in the countryside of Sta. Catalina.

But Leopoldo Suito, Chairperson of Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Sta Catalina (NAMASCA), a municipal chapter of KAUGMAON-KMP, debunked the statements of Lt. Col. Erwin Neri, commander of the 79th Infantry Battalion in media interviews that the encounter between the military and the red fighters in Nagbinlod, Sta Catalina which started last Sept. 8 did not lead to any evacuations. Suito revealed that he himself has evacuated due to the military’s insistent demand for them to go out of their area in Sitio Halway, Brgy. Nagbinlod because they will bomb the place

Aside from the hardships caused by the forced evacuation, Suito and the other militant farmers are now fearing for their lives since they have been hearing threats from the military.

Marlon Armines, another farmer evacuee from Sitio Tubod, Brgy. Nagbinlod of the same municipality, revealed that he was told by a resident to hide because the military is looking for him and he will be killed if they find him.

Residents of Nagbinlod advised Suito and Armines to keep themselves out of sight of the military, who have been heard saying that they will be skinned alive.

Suito said that he believed that the military has been threatening them because they have been active in the farmers organization and exposing the military’s continuing rights abuses.

Meanwhile, in nearby Siaton town, militant farmers under KAUGMAON exposed that the military in their barangays keep them mum in expressing views of their unjustified stay and of their abusive conducts through their new tactic: unuttered scare.

Raffy Ducay, KAUGMAON secretary-general, said that aside from continuing to conduct pulong-pulong (“community” meetings) as part of their ongoing vilification campaign against the progressive groups, the military is very busy with “peace seminars” that aimed at forcing the farmers to become members of the military-initiated Barangay Defense System.

Ducay added that the farmers in Negros Oriental do not need to be as old as the Martial Law victims to feel the pain of the Marcos Dictatorship. “They have experienced a different taste of this brutal regime courtesy of the 302nd Brigade of the Philippine Army present in their respective barangays” he added.

With the worsening human rights situation, the PCPR, Karapatan and KAUGMAON have demanded the immediate pull-out of the military forces so as to put to a stop to the sufferings of the people of Sta. Catalina.

The group has called on the local government units particularly Negros Oriental Governor Emilio Macias II, to intervene and protect his constituents.

“We stand by our demand for an immediate investigation, by an independent probe body, of the harassments of our countrymen in the countryside of this province” said the leaders of the three groups in their unified statement. Contributed to Bulatlat

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