By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
NORDIS (Northern Dispatch) WEEKLY Diaryo ti umili ti amianan
PARACELIS, Mt. Province – Women of Banga-banga, Aguinaldo, Ifugao trooped to witness a hearing at the village of Botigue’s Lupon Tagapamayapa on a case they filed against an AFP second lieutenant here. They had hoped to tell the public about the military harassments they suffered.
Some 20 villagers arrived at the village early Saturday in the morning of, last June 18, but they were not allowed to address the Lupon (Council).
As a result, members of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance organized a forum to let them speak about their issues to the members of the Ifugao Peasant Leaders Forum (IPLF), the Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance – Mt Province (CPA–MP), and Innabuyog–Gabriela who went to the village to witness the hearing.
Edna Gaing, 38, and an Ifugao, was one of the women who charged that her family was harassed and her home was violated by soldiers. She recalled incidents since May 23 this year. She said she was at the farm the first time the military “visited” their house, on May 23.
When she arrived home at 5pm, she noticed that a plastic container which her family was using to store drinking water was taken. It has not been returned as of writing.
The next day, she recounted that the soldiers went to their house again and tried to force her to admit that she was an “asset” of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA). “They warned me they will seize me and take me to their office,” she said.
But she denied the soldiers’ accusations. She initially refused to go with the soldiers, telling them they have no proof that she really was an NPA asset, so why would they punish her? Still, Gaing said, the military forced her to go with them, threatening her along the way that they will have enough evidence against her.
And then last June 18, Gaing said a group of armed men introducing themselves as NPAs went to their house before daybreak, insisting to enter. Gaing said her husband was tending to their pig outside the house when soldiers came and told him they will enter the house. Her husband reportedly refused because she was still asleep inside. The soldiers however insisted and entered their house.
“I was about to go and lock the door because I heard their conversation but I saw them entering already,” said Gaing.
The soldiers posing as NPA’s reportedly told her they will enter to see something. But she resisted for fear that the soldiers might plant evidence against her and it would be difficult to stop them because it was dark. The soldiers were dressed in civilian attire but were armed.
“We knew that they were members of the military because of what they wore,” Gaing said, adding that she had seen members of the NPA passing by their house and she could recognize the difference.
Gaing said the military asked her if she was going to attend the village hearing but she said no, out of fear.
She added that almost every house in the village of Banga-banga were subjected to a search.
The day after the hearing, Gaing said, all those who attended the village hearing slept in one house, fearing the return of the soldiers. She said they are afraid that they will be intimidated again for having attended the village hearing.
Other than Gaing, several men in the village had also been ordered brought to the military camp, but they had reportedly resisted.