Farmers groups call to end fake and forced surrender campaign

(Graphics by Jannela Paladin / Bulatlat)


IMUS, Cavite – Filipino farmer groups have called on the Duterte administration to stop targeting their ranks as they are being rounded up and forced to “surrender” as alleged members of the New People’s Army.

This, farmer leader Danilo Ramos told Bulatlat, is an attempt to justify the grave rights abuses that Filipino farmers are being subjected to, with 340 farmers falling victims to extrajudicial killings during the term of President Rodrigo Duterte alone.

“This is mainly red-tagging that aims to justify the killing of farmers by security forces. They were killed after they were red-tagged,” Ramos told Bulatlat in a text message.

In an online media briefing, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Tanggol Magsasaka said that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), the government’s counterinsurgency body, are targeting innocent farmers, posing them as alleged “surrenderees” against their will.

The group said they conducted both online and offline fact-finding missions from July 20 to August 4 across five regions and 11 provinces. In this series of missions, they were able to record 70 cases of forced fake NPA surrenderees.

In 2018, for one, the Armed Forces of the Philippines claimed that the regular number of NPA members was at 3,000 but during the farmers groups’ conference, they said that the government’s own data revealed that at least 17,000 have surrendered.

“Whenever we look at government reports, it seems that there are more surrenderees than their estimate of NPA members in the country. We reiterate that those who surrendered were faked and forced,” he said.

What happens when farmers are forced to surrender?

Ronald Reyes, a village official from Cagayan Valley, said that they feared they may be sent behind bars if they did not sign the surrender papers – a document where they will denounce any local people’s organization and the Communist Party of the Philippines, along with the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

“The worst is when they force guns on us. Because of pressure and trauma, and the mental torture that we were subjected to, we decided that we just wanted to end it and pretend to admit (that we were NPA fighters now returning to government fold),” Reyes said.

Forcing them to sign these surrender papers has brought them sleepless nights. Another farmer, Vicky, not her real name, said they were even told to connect progressive groups such as Anakpawis, Bayan Muna, and ACT Teachers to the NPA. Because of fear, she said, “we decided to sign a waiver that states that we do not coddle NPA members.”

Harassments and red-tagging

Extensive harassment and red-tagging are also part of the nightmares faced by farmers and residents in rural areas who are being tagged as supporters of the NPA and other rebel groups or as members of the so-called “milisyang bayan” and “sangay ng Partido sa lokalidad.”

Police and military officers conduct visits to homes of residents and farms of farmers and peasant leaders. In these visits, the KMP and Tanggol Magsasaka said, the government’s P20 million budget per barangay under the Barangay Development Program is being used to harass residents who are being intimidated to “cooperate” with the government’s counterinsurgency program.

Farmers and residents were also threatened of being charged with criminal cases. They also feared that state forces would plant firearms and explosives to justify either arrests of the nanlaban (fought back) narrative.

In May 2021, fisherfolk activist Elwin Mangampo was arrested, with authorities purportedly finding firearms and explosives in his home. Alma, his wife, said those firearms do not belong to them but Manganpo was still forced to admit it.

It felt, Alma said, that a part of her died when her husband was sent behind bars.

“I cannot be with him. I cannot even hug him. It hurts because there is no truth to this. I am asking for help,” Alma said. (JJE, RTS) (

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