By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Peasant group Unyon ng mga Mangggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) urged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the abduction of three farmers by suspected paramilitary agents in Canlusong village, Enrique B. Magalona municipality, Negros Occidental.
Farmers Michael Celeste, Gerald Abale and Jully Devero have been missing since July 19. According to Karapatan, the three were forcibly taken from their houses by armed men wearing bonnets.
Devero, 56, was first to be taken from his home in Mañaque subvillage in front of his wife Lilia and son Wilben. Armed men barged into the house and took Devero without explanation.
An hour later, in another subvillage, Gerald Abale, 32, was held at gunpoint by about eight to 10 armed men, some wearing camouflage. When his wife Clemencia embraced him tightly, one of the men told her in the vernacular: “You want us to kill your husband here?” Clemencia let go and Abale was taken to the main road.
At around the same time, a group of eight to 10 armed men surrounded the house of Michael Celeste’s father Danilo and asked the whereabouts of his son. The armed men proceeded to Celeste’s house which was just 50 meters away. The men took Celeste, threatening his family not to follow them.
The families of the victims believed that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) were behind the abduction.
In July 2007, Michael, a member of the Negros based National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) was tortured by suspected agents of RPA-ABB.
On May 26, a certain Saul Casiple, an alleged leader of the RPA-ABB, threatened to arrest Devero for making charcoal.
“The style of abductions; bonnet clad armed men in civilian clothes, clearly points out that this is the handiwork of the military in collaboration with the RPA-ABB to sow terror in the islands of Negros,” Rodel Mesa, UMA secretary general, said.
The RPA-ABB is a breakaway group of the New People’s Army (NPA) since the 90s. “Now it was reduced to banditry and cooperates with the military as paid mercenaries implementing the government’s counter insurgency program in the island,” Mesa said.