“It seems the military is in a haste to meet its quota of civilians killed before the BS Aquino regime ends.”
MANILA – Human rights group Karapatan denounced what it called “killing frenzy” by suspected soldiers in Compostela Valley province, with three victims slain in as many days.
The group identified the victims as: Alejandro Laya-og, 36, of Maragusan municipality, who was shot dead on Feb. 7; Jennifer Albacite, 40, of Compostela, and Ronel Paas, 35, of Pantukan. The latter two were killed in separate incidents on Feb. 9.
Karapatan blamed the Philippine Army units present in the province as “waging a terror campaign” as the group had documented the series of killings, threats on small-scale miners, and mounting and firing of cannons in at least four communities.
Laya-og, who was a member of the Kahugpongan sa Mag-uuma sa Magcagong (Kamama), was at the terminal in Poblacion village in Maragusan when he was shot, once at the back, and then at the head when he fell on the ground. Laya-og had been branded by soldiers of the 25th Infantry Battalion (IB) as a supporter of the New People’s Army and hounded by suspected military agents.
His group, Kamama had protested the presence of soldiers and cases of human rights violations in Maragusan villages. Laya-og also helped the construction of Lumád school Salugpongan Community Learning Center.
On Feb. 9, Albacite, a market vendor was shot dead in the town center of Compostela, believed to have been mistaken for her sister, Jeannirose Porras, a member of the Compostela Farmers’ Association (CFA), who was the real target. The CFA had taken a strong stand against the entry of the Agusan Petroleum Mining Company (AgPet) in Compostela, and the group had reported being harassed by soldiers of the 66th and 67th IB.
That same day, in Napnapan village, 46th IB soldiers indiscriminately fired guns and cannons which hit Paas in the chest. Residents tried to rush Paas to the hospital, but 46th IB soldiers detained them at the detachment in Tibagan village for an hour, because they suspected Paas as an NPA. Soldiers eventually released them after they presented the victim’s ID. Paas died on the way to the hospital.
Karapatan quoted residents who said soldiers issued threats last week saying, “Kung kami ma-ambushan sa mga rebelde, kamo gyud among balikan (If the rebels ambush us, we will retaliate on you).”
Two other residents were wounded in the bombing: a 14-year old boy who was hit on the leg and a woman who was also hit in the chest. The boy was arrested and brought to Camp Panacan in Davao City, where he was presented as a child NPA.
Hanimay Suazo, secretary-general of Karapatan-SMR, lambasted the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command for claiming that Paas and the 14-year old are NPAs. “The military will makeup these contrived truths of branding civilians as NPAs in order to escape criminal liability,” she said.
Suazo said the latest attacks on activists were meant to pave the way for large-scale mining operations.In January, four activists were killed in the region, in Davao and Compostela Valley provinces.
Karapatan also reported incidents of 46th IB soldiers forcibly entering the tunnels of small-scale miners and torturing them to stop their operations. The group said the military had mounted cannons in the villages of Anitapan, Panamin and Candinuyan in the town of Mabini, and in Kingking village in Pantukan. In Mascareg village in the municipality of Mabini, soldiers of the 46th and 71st IB also fired cannons.
“Terror surrounds Compostela Valley, one of the targets of the AFP’s counterinsurgency operations. The AFP, specifically the EastMinCom, is on a pacification campaign through terror. It seems the military is in a haste to meet its quota of civilians killed before the BS Aquino regime ends,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.
“The killings happened after the AFP’s command conference where Chief of Staff Gen. Hernando Iriberri said they are working to make the Davao provinces and Caraga region ‘peaceful and ready for development’, which essentially means worse fascist attacks against the people,” said Palabay.