Aquino’s First 100 Days Disappointing Say Rights, Peasant Groups in Northern Luzon

Northern Dispatch
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BAGUIO CITY -Human rights groups and a peasant organization in the Cordillera and Ilocos regions said they are disappointed with the performance of President Benigno Aquino III in his first 100 days. The groups said he failed to address the issues of human rights and agrarian reform.

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and Ilocos Human Rights Alliance (IHRA) declared that the human rights situation has not changed as government troops “continue to terrorize Northern Luzon communities while enjoying a climate of impunity.” The groups added that innocent civilians continue to suffer from gross human rights violations such as extra judicial killings, abduction, harassment, intimidation and illegal searches and detention.

CHRA Secretary General Jude Baggo said President Aquino’s first 100 days report, focusing on his administration’s remedy for the fiscal crisis besetting the country, did not mention any concrete plan to end gross violations of peoples rights and prosecute the perpetrators.

Baggo said Aquino has instead extended Oplan Bantay Laya II, the counter insurgency program of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration that resulted in over 1000 extra-judicial killings and more than 200 enforced disappearances. He added that Aquino even increased the budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines while implementing cuts in the budget of state colleges and universities.

Baggo stressed that the extended implementation of OBL resulted in more human rights violations as military troops “continue their rampage in indigenous communities in the Cordillera.”

In the first 100 days of Aquino in office, CHRA reported that the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army committed a series of human rights violations in their operation in Lacub, Abra, on September 10-16. Elements of the 41st IB on September 10 reportedly coerced two residents of Kilob, Lacub, Abra to serve as military guides in their operation.

In Buneg, Lacub Abra, a certain Lt. de los Santos heading elements of the 41st IB on September 11 threatened three fisher folks who were on their way home after catching fish and eel. The soldiers fired their guns at the direction of the three who they ordered to take a different route going home after they were accosted and illegally searched.

The report also mentioned that on September 13, soldiers belonging to the Bravo Company of the 41st IB physically assaulted a farmer and small-scale miner in Dagni, Lacub, robbing him of a kilo of salt and eight pieces of tobacco leaves after his bag was illegally searched.

“The types of violations perpetrated by elements of the Philippine Army are basically the same although their mode of operation has changed,” Baggo said. He said the AFP is now using MOAs (Memorandum of Agreements) with local government units to tap the resources and participation of the LGUs in its counter-insurgency campaign. Aside from this, Baggo said, some army troopers have been disguising themselves as NPA guerillas during their military operations.

Rod Tajon, IHRA secretary general, reported that intensified military operation are bin g conducted in Ilocos peasant communities particularly in the towns of Sta. Lucia, Galimuyod, Salcedo and Sta. Cruz of Ilocos Sur.

Tajon said the heightened military operations of the 50th and 86th Infantry Battalion resulted in the murder of two Ilocos Sur peasants, illegal detention of four farmers, encampment in civilian communities and other rights violations.

“Terror grips Ilocos Sur communities with the continuing military presence and operations. Children are afraid to go to school, economic activities are disrupted and hundreds of residents are being subjected to threats, harassment and intimidation or worse, are being killed because they are accused of being NPAs or NPA supporters,” Tajon declared.

“Farmers here in Ilocos are disappointed with Aquino,” said Avelino Dacanay of the Solidarity of Peasants against Exploitation (STOP Exploitation).
Dacanay declared that Aquino’s government is no different from GMA. Aquino’s 100 days did not lead to a righteous path, as he has been claiming. Dacanay said Aquino had not given attention to the peasants’ plight, citing as prime example the case of the Hacienda Luisita.

Moreover, Dacanay stressed that the intensifying military operations in Ilocos Sur only served to worsen the already destitute situation of Ilocos peasants. “Farmers now go to their field late and go home early for fear of the military. Farmers usually go to the fields at dawn to escape the scorching heat at midday. Those who rely on charcoal-making can no longer get wood in the mountains as the soldiers have barred them from doing that, he said.

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