MANILA — Farmers’ groups led by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) will hold a nationally-coordinated protest dubbed as “National Day of Mourning” on Aug. 20, Tuesday.
To date, 226 farmers have been killed, of whom 30 were women, 29 were elderly, and 10 were children, according to peasant women’s group Amihan. In Negros island alone, 90 farmers and other civilians have been gunned down since Duterte assumed office.
Human rights alliance Karapatan has also documented nearly 370, 000 victims of bombings, and 450,000 victims of forced evacuation due to intensive military operations.
In a press conference this morning, Aug. 17, Ariel Casilao of Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (Uma) said the killings as well as detention and filing of trumped-up charges against activists and forced surrenders are part of a national policy to end the insurgency.
Casilao cited Duterte’s Executive Order No. 70, which mandates the creation of national task force to end the local communist insurgency.
“The problem is that the framework of this task force provides no distinction between combatants and non-combatants, or activists belonging to organizations categorized as legal fronts [of the Communist Party of the Philippines],” Casilao said.
The red tagging, Casilao said, is being used by state security forces as a license to attack farmers, students, lawyers and other sectors.
‘Farmers by day, NPA by night’
In the same way that student activists are labeled as “students by day, New People’s Army (NPA) by night,” farmers are also tagged as guerrillas.
Leaders of local peasant organisations narrated how their rights were violated by state security forces.
On Dec. 27, 2018, Delia Isugan’s son Jesus, 27, was killed by men in uniform in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental. On that day, Oplan Sauron was first implemented in Guihulngan, resulting in the death of five other civilians.
Delia and her husband were also arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearms. She was imprisoned for four days.
“Policemen were forcing me to admit that I own a 38 [caliber pistol] and that I am an NPA,” Delia, secretary general of peasant group Kaugmaon, told the media.
Delia’s relatives sold all their farm animals so she could post the P45,000 bail and attend her son’s funeral.
On July 9, Delia’s house and the house of her eldest son Albino in barangay Buenavista were burned down. Since then, Delia, her husband and their children have fled their community. Three of her seven children have been forced to stop schooling.
Farmer couple Gregorio and Marilyn Velasco has also left their community in San Mariano, Isabela for fear of their safety. On July 12, their house was strafed by elements of the Army’s 95th Infantry Battalion (IB) who have encamped in the community for six months. Fortunately, no one among them was wounded.
Marilyn said she and the other peasant women were also forced to dance with the soldiers on July 19. She said that the drunken soldiers even kissed some of the women.
Cathy Estavillo, Amihan secretary general who joined a fact-finding mission in Isabela early this month, said hundreds of farmers are being called by the military to “clear their names” from the list of NPA guerrillas. “When they report to the battalion, they are forced to sign a document stating they were NPA who have surrendered to the government,” Estavillo said.
Soldiers belonging to the 95th, 86th and 17th IB also occupied civilian facilities such as barangay halls, day care centres and evacuation centers, Estavillo added.
In Macalelon, Quezon, Eliseo Batarlo said soldiers have been forcing farmers to admit to being NPA fighters.
In San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, elements of the 48th Infantry Battalion “visited” the house of Cecil Rapiz, local leader of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan. A few days earlier, Rapiz’s colleague Larry Suganob was shot dead by suspected elements of 48th IB.
On March 21, while Rapiz was attending the wake of Suganob, she received a text message from her neighbor, informing her that 10 soldiers with high-powered rifles went to her house. Fearing for her life, Rapiz has not come home since then.
Danilo Ramos, KMP chairperson, said that a de facto martial law is in place in Luzon and Visayas provinces. “People now live in fear and insecurity. Even their livelihood is affected,” Ramos said.
“We demand a stop to these killings and attacks against the people,” Ramos said.
On Aug. 20, KMP and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan will lead a protest in Mendiola to condemn the state policies that authorize “state-sponsored attacks.”
A concelebrated mass will be held in Sta. Cruz Church in Manila at 2 p.m. to pray for the victims and their families. It will be attended by various congregations and the faithful under the banner of the religious group One Voice, One Faith.
In Bicol region, provincial protests will take place in Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, and Masbate.
Students from the University of the Philippines will walk out of their classes to join the activities.
Farmers and other sectors from Southern Tagalog will start their activities on August 19 in Laguna and will hold protests in front Camp Crame, Camp Aguinaldo, and Department of Interior and Local Government. They will join the protests in Mendiola on August 20.
Zen Soriano, Amihan chairperson, called on the public to “join and support them in holding the Duterte government accountable for the atrocities against Filipino peasants across the country, and demand justice for victims of human rights abuses.”