By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The military’s all-out war has so far targeted civilians and not New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas.
From Feb. 3 to Feb. 19, nine farmers and indigenous peoples fighting for their land were killed in separate incidents by suspected state agents.
The latest victim was Willerme Agorde who died from gunshot wounds late last night, Feb. 19, at the Antipas Medical Hospital in North Cotabato. He was gunned down at 6 p.m. by motorcycle-riding men in Ilustre village, President Roxas town.
Agorde is a peasant leader of Mailuminado Farmers Association Inc. that has been fighting for ownership of 5,000-hectares of land inside the University of Southern Mindanao-Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology (CFCST).
Eight other political killings this month were recorded by human rights alliance Karapatan, bringing to a total of 32 activists killed since Duterte assumed the presidency.
Edweno Catog of the indigenous tribe Lumad-Mansaka was shot in public at the highway intersection of P. Fuentes village, Pantukan town, Compostela Valley by suspected state security forces on Feb. 16. Catog sustained four gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead-on-arrival at the Pantukan Public Hospital.
Still in Mindanao, on February 11, two small-scale miners, Pepito Tiambong and Jerson Bito were killed when soldiers of the 29th Infantry Battalion strafed a mining tunnel in Sarog, San Isidro village, Santiago, Agusan del Norte. Four others were injured, including a 15-year old boy.
On the same day, in the Visayas, in Roxas City, Capiz, farmer Orlando Eslana was killed while five others were injured when armed men opened fire at the peasants’ protest to assert their ownership of the land occupied by the Tan Estate.
Two more indigenous peoples were killed in separate incidents on February 3, the day Duterte cancelled the government ceasefire with the NPA.
Karapatan identified the victims as Matanem (tribal chief) Lorendo Pocuan, leader of the Omayam tribe in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon and Renato Anglao, a Manobo-Pulangihon and secretary-general of Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association.
On Feb. 6, Emelito Rotimas, a Mansaka and local leader of Lapu-Lapu village, Maco, Compostela Valley, was shot eight times by suspected military agents, while Glenn Ramos, a former coordinator of Bayan Muna in Davao City was shot dead by personnel of Crime Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) while in his house in Maa, Davao City, Karapatan said.
Duterte eventually scrapped the peace talks with the NDFP on Feb. 4. Consequently, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced an “all-out war against the NPA” on Feb. 7.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said, “The all-out-war further exposes the fascist character of the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines].”
“The military’s blatant disregard for the rights of the people, heightened by their all-out-war declaration, will perpetuate resistance, as roots of political dissent and unrest remains,” Palabay said.