By ROD TAJON
Posted by Bulatlat
SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – – Relatives of a victim of extrajudicial killing recently filed complaints of human rights abuses against the military before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Regional Office 1.
Elma, wife of slain farmer Elmer Valdez, narrated to the CHR that on September 10, her husband went to the hill area of barangay Conconig East to get some bamboo for their kitchen when after an hour, she heard gunshots in the direction of the hill.
“I heard a gasp, and I felt it was my husband’s so I called for help; my father and brother-in-law went to see him,” she related.
Elmer’s father Rizalino said that they called for Elmer and Elmer responded that he was there, “but when we were approaching his location, we heard gunshots, since then, he did not return home.”
Elmer’s decomposing body was found headless and showed signs of torture, in a shallow grave about two to three kilometers away from the hill where he was gathering bamboos.
Elements of the 50th Infantry Battalion, 86th IB and 503rd Brigade of the Philippine Army were operating in the area at the time of the incident.
The military, according to Rizalino, even denied them access when they went to claim the remains of Elmer. Rizalino said that his son was accused by the military to be a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Elma and Rizalino were joined by barangay (village) officials of Conconig East, Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur and convenors of Task Force Sta. Lucia when they trooped to CHR Region 1 office, October 7.
Omir Cacho, chief investigator of CHR and other staff of the Commission met with the families and the Task Force.
The Task Force submitted a copy of the fact-finding mission report held last September 15. Rev Eddie Suniga, vice chairperson of Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA) said that result of the FFM highlighted the cases of individual and collective rights violations committed by the military.
“As part of the extension of the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, communities who were already suffering from poverty were again victimized by the military operations conducted by the 50th IBPA,” Suniga stressed.
Suniga said that the operations conducted by the military in Sta. Lucia has resulted to cases of extrajudicial killing, threat/harassment/intimidation, illegal search and seizure, forced evacuation and displacement, destruction of properties and many others.
Apart from these cases, according to Romy Rabang, a barangay official of Conconig East, the presence of the military threatens the entire community. “They cannot even go to the mountains to gather wood or get vegetables for fear of their lives,” he said in Ilocano. He said the military even accused them as NPA supporters and members.
Another victim, Perfecto Hortizuela narrated that he was held by the military and used as guide during their operations. “I showed them my cow to prove that I am not an NPA because they kept insisting that I am a member of the NPA.” Hortizuela was held from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. He was given a figurine of the Holy Family by the military to “protect him from other soldiers” and P120.00 for fare.
Cacho said that the Commission would look into the cases filed in their office and would conduct a series of investigation for the cases.
Cacho said the CHR will visit the military to inquire and verify the cases filed at their office. “We would arrange talks with the 50th IBPA, 503rd Brigade and the 5th ID to investigate on these cases to determine the accountable.”
The CHR also committed to conduct its own investigation in the communities of Sta. Lucia to verify the cases.
Task Force Sta. Lucia convenor and chairperson of the Solidarity of Peasants against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation) reiterated the command responsibility of the Philippine Army in the cases. “While there were names mentioned in the inquiry, it should be noted that the military officers are accountable to these violations as part of their command responsibility.”
“We challenge the CHR to conduct impartial, speedy and thorough investigation and of course, to support the victims of human rights violations,” Suniga said. (Posted by Bulatlat.com)