Agustito “Tito” Ladera, 38, and Renato Deliguer, 21, were last seen by their relatives tending their farms before they went missing. Witnesses point to soldiers of the 36th Infantry Battalion who were seen arresting two farmers.
MANILA — At the height of the evacuation of residents in barangay Mahaba, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur due to massive military operations, two farmers decided to stay to work on their abaca farms. The two went missing.
Agustito “Tito” Ladera, 38, was last seen by his brother, Geddion, and Glenn Keliste when they left him behind in their abaca farm in Sitio Pinagdayonan on Aug. 28. Tito told Geddion and Glenn to go ahead to the evacuation center because he still had some abaca fibers to dry.
Meanwhile, Renato Deliguer, 21, was last seen by his father Hipolito on Sept. 1. Renato told his father that he would harvest some abaca from his farm in Pagiwasan, barangay Mahaba.
Residents of barangay Mahaba were forced to evacuate from their community when soldiers from the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) conducted massive military operations. (See related story)
Relatives feared that the two farmers were abducted by the military.
Geddion discovered the disappearance of his brother Tito when he went home on Sept. 2. He went to the farm to fetch Tito but he was not there nor was he outside when they searched for him. He noticed that among their things, a small backpack and some clothes were missing. Hoping that Tito has gone to one of their relatives’ house, Geddion and his father went back to the evacuation center and continued to search for him.
On Sept. 8, Tito’s father went back to their farm in Pinagdayonan, but it was still empty. He was nowhere to be found.
Meanwhile, on the same day, Hipolito went to the house of Renato’s father-in-law at barangay Mahaba to invite Renato to go with him to the farm. It was then that he learned that his son has not come home since the day he left him at the farm on Sept. 1.
On Sept. 13, Hipolito went to their farm and found the hut in total disarray. He saw prints of combat boots all over the hut. Their water containers and cooking pot with rice were on the ground, with the contents spilled. Clothes were strewn everywhere, the sleeping mat was spread out on the floor and the mosquito net has not been taken down.
Hipolito quickly tidied the hut and went straight to the house of barangay (village) chairperson Bernandita Abis to report what he discovered. He told her that he suspected the military’s involvement in his son’s disappearance. Bernandita denied any knowledge of the incident.
The following day, Hipolito came back, this time accompanied by Lando Gerona, a councilor of barangay Pong-on and Renato’s uncles Jaime Padon and Jake Lacerna. Bernandita told them to go to the 36th IBPA camp in barangay Dayoan in the town of Tago because she received information from a reliable source that there were two men arrested by the military. Hipolito also received a text message from his sister-in-law, Emilda Lacerna, that a certain Rene Deliguer was brought by the military to the Philippine National Police (PNP) station in Tandag City.
By that time, Tito’s family heard of the disappearance of Renato and the information that two men were arrested by soldiers of the 36th IBPA. Geddion went to Hipolito to ask if he has any information about the whereabouts of the two missing farmers. Hipolito told him about the two men allegedly arrested by the military and turned over to the police. Geddion feared that one of the two men was his brother, Tito.
After his talk with Geddion, Hipolito and some companions went to Tandag City PNP. The police showed them the pictures of the two men reportedly from other barangays who were turned over to them by the military earlier that day. None of them was Renato. They requested to be allowed to see the detention cell to see for themselves if Renato was not inside, the police declined. They were advised to go to the 36th IBPA camp.
They went straight to the camp. Seven soldiers in civilian clothes took turns in interrogating them. The soldiers insisted that the detainees were not from barangays Pong-on and Mahaba, and dismissed the group’s request for permission to see the said detainees.
Hipolito went back to Tandag PNP bringing with him Renato’s voter’s identification card, to show to the police that his son is not an NPA. He became more worried upon learning from the police that the military came back for the two detainees and they were not in police custody anymore.
Geddion and Hipolito are now being assisted by the Kapunongan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Surigao del Sur (KAMASS) or Farmers’ Association of Surigao del Sur in lobbying with local government units both at the municipal and provincial levels in their search for Tito and Renato. They were also accompanied by KAMASS leaders to radio stations to appeal to the public to provide them with any information about the two disappeared persons.
Governor Johnny Pimentel and the Provincial Board of Surigao del Sur requested for a dialogue with the military, which would take place on Oct. 4, to discuss Tito and Renato’s disappearance.
In a press conference on Oct. 5 in Quezon City, Desaparecidos deputy secretary general Lorena Santos condemned the incident and blamed the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances to the extension of counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya. (RVO/Bulatlat.com)