The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance reportedly managed to secure a document titled “Municipality of Tinoc (Target Persons)” from a concerned element of the Charlie Company of the 86th Battalion (Highlander) of the 5th Infantry (Star) Division of the PA based in Tinoc, Ifugao.
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) is accusing a unit of the Philippine Army of targeting civilians, specifically development workers, human rights advocates and members and leaders of people’s organizations.
Late in October, the CHRA reportedly managed to secure a document titled “Municipality of Tinoc (Target Persons)” from a concerned element of the Charlie Company of the 86th Battalion (Highlander) of the 5th Infantry (Star) Division of the PA based in Tinoc, Ifugao. The document is allegedly a list containing the names of at least 28 individuals, all civilians. In six columns, the organizations, mobile phone numbers and supposed ranks or posts of the civilians were detailed.
The two-page document bears the logos of the 86th IBPA and the 5th ID, and it also includes remarks and assessment points regarding the civilians on the list. Next to the names of the civilian names were tags such as “Suporter ng NPA” (supporter of the New People’s Army); “Nagbibigay ng Pagkain sa NPA” (gives food to the NPA); “Tulugan ng NPA ang Kanilang Bahay” (the NPA takes shelter in the person’s house) ; and “Imbakan ng Baril” (storage place for guns). The secretary-general of the CHRA Jude Baggo was number 22 in the list and was alleged to be “UTAK NG NPA” or brains of the NPA.
According to the CHRA, the civilians whose names are on the list are all active participants in the promotion and defense of human rights. Most are involved in the implementation of community-based programs on human rights, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and socio-economic projects in the communities of Tinoc and its adjacent municipality of Asipulo.
The group said it has already informed the individuals whose names are on the military hit-list. The human rights group also said that the individuals were also asked on their views and reactions regarding their inclusion in the list.
Baggo said many of the individuals were distressed and anxious upon hearing that they are targets of the military.
Pio Dangew, a former village chairman of Brgy. Gumhang in Tinoc and incumbent chairman of the Gumhang Farmers Association for Development (GFDA) said he fears for his life and the safety and security of the members of his family.
“I cannot sleep at night. It’s been very difficult to sleep these last few weeks. I get startled every time the dog barks or when I hear footsteps approaching the house. I can’t eat properly, and my work routine has been severely disrupted. My wife wept after I told her of the document’s existence and my inclusion in the hit-list,” he said.
Dangew said, however, that even before he was informed about the list, he and his family had been the constant target of harassment tactics by elements of the 86th IBPA. The soldiers reportedly accost him and family members and accuse them of being NPA supporters because of Dangew’s involvement with the local farmers association.
Another civilian on the list is Gabino Lindawan, an administrative aide III of the Ifugao Provincial Agriculture and Environment and Resources Office (PAENRO).
According to the CHRA, Lindawan was tortured by the 86th IBPA’s soldiers earlier in July. The military also reportedly destroyed parts of the provincial nursery. Last October, the military also accused Lindawan of illegally keeping explosives.
“Life has been so difficult. Soldiers frequently harass and intimidate me by showing up at the provincial nursery where I work. I have also seen strange men riding motorcycles frequently watching and passing the area where I live. It’s hard to sleep, it’s hard to eat, and it’s even harder to focus on my work,” he said.
Modesto Hanggoy, who is listed as “Number 01” and accused of storing weapons for the NPA, said that since the 86th IBPA established camp in Tinoc, he and his family have frequently seen military elements in plainclothes watching their house.
“Soldiers ‘visit’ me at home and ask me questions. One time while I was being interrogated, one of the soldiers took pictures and a video of me being questioned. I feel like a criminal when I have done nothing wrong. I am a law-abiding citizen and have never committed a crime against any person,” he said.
The CHRA’s Baggo said the attacks against the rights of civilians should not be allowed to continue. He explained that vilification or labelling’, “red-baiting” and imposing guilt by association are long-standing tactics of the military against civilian.
“Vilification is a direct attack against members of people’s organizations critical of government policies by characterizing these individuals as ‘terrorists’, common criminals and anti-peace and development. The military acts on behalf of the government and with its blessing, to negate the legitimacy of legitimate political causes,” he said.
Baggo said the 86th IBPA has been a consistent and notorious violator of human rights in Ifugao and Benguet. Its soldiers and commanding officers should be investigated and punished because of their crimes against civilians. The target list exposes how the Aquino government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines treats the Filipino citizenry. All these attacks are part and parcel of Oplan Bayanihan. If any harm befalls any of the civilians on the military’s hit-list, the 86th IBPA and President Benigno Aquino III, as their commander-in-chief, should be held accountable,” he said.
Continuing human rights violations
The CHRA has long been exposing the worsening military operations in Northern Luzon.
Last year it exposed how the military committed countless human rights violations against civilians at Sitio Beew, Alangtin, Tubo, Abra the entire months of March. April and May. Residents were shocked to find their communities practically overrun by elements of the 50th IBPA under the command of a certain Col. Anquillano.
The CHRA said that during those months, the soldiers established a a detachment at the dap-ay (indigenous socio-political structure) and barangay hall. They also occupied several civilian houses, and positioned weapons in front of the church.
“Sometimes they fired mortars without any reason. The soldiers restricted the movement of the villagers by listing all the names of those who leave the village. They interrogated residents about their activities, where they were going, and when they expected to return,” the CHRA said.
The CHRA also documented how soldiers destroyed the community fence that prevented carabaos from leaving the residential area and falling into the nearby ravine. Because they were allowed to wander freely, the animals eventually destroyed vegetable plots and swidden fields. Several carabaos fell off the ravine, but the soldiers did nothing to repair the fence.
The following October 2011, during a military operation in Caganayan, Tineg, Abra, soldiers bombed forest areas, saying that they were holding pursuit operations against alleged NPAs. The civilians, however, said that there were no confirmed sightings of NPAs in the forests.
That same month, 10 civilian houses and the property of the home-owners in Liwon, Ifugao were destroyed by mortars and bullets fired by the AFP. Residents were forced to evacuate and went to Sitio Balococ. Months later, many have not returned to their homes. Two elderly men reportedly died in the course of the military operation, one died of gunshot wounds, and the other suffered from a heart attack.
Earlier this year, the Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM) held a fact-finding mission July 26 to July 30 at Asipulo and Tinoc, and the findings shocked the participants from Katribu Ifugao, the Ifugao Resource and Development Center (IRDC), Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC) and the Montañosa Research and Development Center (MRDC). According to reports, the participants experienced first-hand, the harassment tactics of the 86th IBPA and the Philippine National Police in the region.
Among the findings of the FFM was the illegal search the soldiers of the military unit conducted in the home of civilian Lito Gulunan. The soldiers stopped Gulunan and his daughter as they were on their way home on a motorcycle. The soldiers demanded to be taken to the civilians house. Upon seeing six pairs of rain boots, and a number of blankets in the house, the military accused Gulunan of being a supporter of the NPA and that his house was being used by the NPA.
Gulunan desperately denied the accusations and argued that the boots and blankets were all owned by his family. He was interrogated for two hours before he and his daughter were allowed to leave.
On July 21, a garderner in Duntogto named Jimmy Canutu was accosted by soldiers of the 86th IBPA. They demanded to know why Canutu owned big cauldrons.
Canutu explained that the pots were owned by his “ubbo” or community. They then ransacked Canutu’s house and accused him of being involved in a previous NPA ambush. The soldiers demanded that Canutu take them to the NPA camp and threatened to bury him when they came back.
The FFM documented many more incidents of human rights violations the civilians of the two towns suffered at the hands of the 86th IBPA.
Mining in Norther Luzon
The military campaigns in Northern Luzon are really directed against civilians, the CHRA said. Among the reasons it named was to protect the mining interests in the region and to discourage the civilian populace from protesting against the destructive effects of the mining operations. For instance, there are a total of 176 magnetite mining applications across the Philippines, and 158 of them are found in La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. The KAMP said the Igorot, Agta and Ilongot tribes suffer the greatest from the destructive effects of irresponsible and aggressive mining in the heart of the Sierra Madre and the Cordillera Mountain ranges.
According to data from the CHRA, the municipality of Tubo, along with Luba and Boliney, in Abra is a site for 26 applications for exploration permit (EXPA) that covers 1,620 hectares. Another mining exploration is underway in Tineg.
The group said the mining companies practically ignore the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, which requires interested parties in the exploration, development and utilization of resources of indigenous peoples to secure the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of affected communities.
Baggo explained, however, that the FPIC requirement is among the most violated collective right of indigenous peoples. During the FPIC processes, Baggo said, it is common for soldiers to be deployed to areas and communities where there will be mining exploration activities.