A report of a fact-finding mission revealed that a de facto martial law reigns in Maria Aurora, Aurora, affecting the day-to-day lives of residents.
BY TERENCE KRISHNA V. LOPEZ
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
MARIA AURORA, Aurora (237 kms. North of Manila)- Beautiful mountain ranges, enticing rivers, winding roads, captivating green fields and rich forest areas are what travelers and tourists will love in Aurora province, instantly.
Moreover, the gentle breeze of air and the reserved smiles of the residents are added attraction, giving the province an image of peace and quiet.
However, something behind the quietness and natural beauty of the province, a sense of fear is brewing among the farmers, especially in Maria Aurora town as reported by a recent Fact Finding and Mercy Mission (FFMM).
The FFMM team was composed of representatives from KARAPATAN-Central Luzon, KARAPATAN-National Office, Panlalawigang Alyansang Magbububukid sa Aurora (PAMANA -Provincial Peasant Alliance in Aurora), Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Central Luzon), Justice and Peace Action Group (JPAG), Health Alliance for Human Rights (HAHR), Community Based Health Program-Nueva Ecija and Council for Health and Development.
De facto martial law
According to the report of the FFMM team, there is indeed an atmosphere of fear in the town as government troops in full-battle gear are visible everywhere.
Sr. Cecille Ruiz, KARAPATAN –Central Luzon chairperson and head of the FFMM team, said that in the village of Decoliat, farmers are required to be home by late afternoon. They could work on their farms only from 9:00 in the morning up to 4:00 p.m.
Ruiz said that when the FFMM team arrived in the said village, they saw troops under the 71st and 48th Infantry Battalions (IB) of the Philippine Army (PA) encamping at the day care center, barangay hall and the primary school campus.
Armored personnel carrier (APC) and two howitzer cannons, both heavy military weapons used only in combat operations, are parked in front of the barangay hall and the school campus.
“While we were conducting our medical and relief operations in one of the classrooms, soldiers in full-battle gear are moving around us, even as majority of our patients were children,” Ruiz said. “This is military rule, a de facto martial law. This is putting the lives of the locales in total danger.”
The report also stated that civilians are required by the military to report to them daily, secure cedulas or community tax certificates, fill up bio-data with photos. Failing to do so would mean that they are supporters or members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).
In a separate statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP- Peasant Movement of the Philippines), said that in the village of Decoliat, the primary school’s student population fell to 14 from 40 since the military began operations in the village.
In the villages of Galintuja, Ponglo and Dianawan, all of Maria Aurora town, government troops are also using barangay halls as detachments. Troops also roam around the villages sowing fear on the people whose economic activities are delimited by the said operations, the FFMM report said.
Ruiz said that the government counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II (OBL II) is largely to be blamed on the current state of military rule in Aurora.
The OBL aims to wipe out the New People’s Army and its mass base. Infamous for its non-differentiation between armed and unarmed groups, the OBL has been said to be responsible for the extra-judicial killings in the country.