Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 3,  Number 26               August 3 - 9, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines


Outstanding, insightful, honest coverage...


Join the Bulatlat.com mailing list!

Powered by groups.yahoo.com


‘Demilitarize All National Minority Communities!’

On July 21, an entire Mangyan family in Sitio Talayog, Barangay San Nicolas, Magsaysay, Mindoro Occidental was massacred allegedly by members of the 204th Brigade of the Philippine Army. On June 17, a six-by-six truck loaded with soldiers arrived in Barangay San Rafael, San Marcelino, Zambales and without a word strafed several houses, all owned by Aeta families. These were only the latest incidents of human rights violations that victimize members of indigenous groups, driving human rights groups and advocates of tribal minorities to demand the pullout of soldiers from IP communities.


Mangyan massacre

A report by the human rights group Karapatan said it was between 6 and 6:30 a.m. when some 20 soldiers led by 1st Lt. Danilo Escandor of the 16th Infantry Battalion (IB) PA under the 204th Brigade arrived at Sitio Talayog and open fire at the house owned by the Blancos, a Mangyan family.

Killed on the spot were Rogelio Blanco, 25; his eight-month pregnant wife Olivia, 19; and children John Kevin, 3, and Dexter, 1.

A lone survivor, Len-len Batikulin, Olivia’s sister, recalled the tragic incident which killed the Blanco family. She said that Rogelio was preparing for to go to the farm while Olivia was cleaning the dishes when they heard the gunfire. John Kevin and Dexter, who were playing outside the house, immediately fell.

Rogelio and the eight-month pregnant Olivia died when they attempted to get to their children who were already hit.

Len-Len, who sustained a gunshot wound in the hand, begged for her relatives to be spared but the military reportedly did not heed her appeal. Instead, “after killing them, the soldiers then ordered those around to quickly bring the bodies to the hospital,” she said.  

Mangyan leader narrates the woes of tribal groups during the State of the Nation rally July 28 

Photo by Arkibong Bayan


In a statement, Karapatan-Southern Tagalog (ST) said the 204th Brigade commanding officer Col. Fernando Mesa admitted that the incident was part of the military operation against suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the area.

Residents of Sitio Talayog, including its barangay captain, however asserted there were no NPA rebels in their area and that “one could easily see if there were armed men inside the (Blancos’) house, and there was none.”

Karapatan-ST acting spokesperson Irein Cuasay said the incident “was a violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL)” because the “Blancos are civilians but they (military) fired indiscriminately.”

Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Liza Maza demanded that Lt. Gen. Gregorio Camiling explain the incident aside from conducting a probe. She also demanded the immediate pullout of the 204th Brigade in Mindoro and the relief of Escandor and Sgt. Danilo Gler who led the military operation that led to the massacre.

Maza also suggested that the Commission on Human Rights conduct its own investigation, since an AFP-led probe would most likely vindicate its own men.

“AFP’s initial report for example, discusses the supposed firefight that ensued between the AFP and NPA, not mentioning at all the indiscriminate shooting that killed four hapless civilians, including two children,” Maza said.

Maza likewise called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to “make all necessary efforts for the resumption of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front” to ensure “the protection of the civilian population in the context of an occurring civil war.”

"This condemnable incident is not the first of the many abuses that has been reported against elements of the 204th Brigade operating in Mindoro. An order to investigate is a very weak and perfunctory response that will barely open the door to justice for the victims of human rights violations in Mindoro," she added.

Meanwhile, Donna Quidayan, acting spokesperson of Tanggol Karapatan ¾ a human rights group that shelters internal refugees ¾ worries that the unstoppable killings “will force more Mangyans to leave their ancestral lands and relocate.”

“The 24 families we have now as internal refugees from Mindoro Oriental will surely increase as long as Macapagal-Arroyo’s all-out war policy continues and the peace talks is stalled,” said Quidayan.

No man’s land

The peaceful Aeta community in Sitio Itanglew, Barangay San Rafael, San Marcelino, Zambales was disturbed by the very same people who should promote peace and order ¾ the military.

The results of a fact-finding mission conducted by Karapatan-Central Luzon (CL) and Central Luzon Aeta Association (CLAA) point to government soldiers as the culprit.

The mission reported that around 100 soldiers on board a six-by-six truck and an APC 155 armored tank arrived in the area at 3 p.m. of June 17 and reportedly strafed the Day Care Center, the Aetas’ huts and papaya trees.

Tribal chieftain Rico Naval was quoted in the same report that the strafing ceased only after two hours. The soldiers did not explain the reasons for the strafing. They were also not wearing nametags, one of the soldiers was even seen wearing a slipper on one foot and a combat shoe on the other.

Some 50 soldiers also stayed behind after the incident. At 7 a.m. the following day, another batch of soldiers from the nearby town Rabanis came. They then ransacked the Aetas’ houses and allegedly looted the villagers of their livestock, clothes, household items and other belongings.

Some were interrogated on their alleged involvement with the NPA. Out of fear, some reportedly admitted seeing NPA guerillas in the area even though they do not see one.

Even the village chief was not spared. When Noval told the soldiers that the gunfire they heard the other day was from their (military) comrades, one soldier insisted that there were NPA rebels from their area.

The chieftain informed Mayor Lydia Rodriguez about the military operation but the latter justified the soldiers’ actions by saying that it was natural for soldiers to be hot-tempered during operations.

Although the mayor and the chieftain agreed to evacuate the 37 families, the soldiers continued to harass the residents.

Before the residents could leave at 5 p.m., the soldiers reportedly insulted the tribesmen when the former told that their church could be where they confess their alleged countless killings.

The Aetas left at around 5 p.m. and sought refuge at the elementary school in the nearby Sitio Lawin.

Forced recruitment

Two days later, in a meeting with the mayor, the Aetas found that they were being forcibly recruited into the paramilitary Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) and would undergo paramilitary training. She further said that the military would set up a detachment in their sitio.

Manolo Ablong, also an Aeta chieftain and representative of Aeta Development Association (ADA), protested that such an action would entail something that is against their culture¾holding guns. Instead of respecting the tribe’s culture, the mayor threatened them that they would be considered NPAs and arrested if they refused.

Thus, on July 11, 49 victims filed a formal complaint demanding their return to the community and punishment of the soldiers involved in the several counts of human rights violations ¾ strafing, grave threats, illegal search, destruction of properties, looting, and the forcible evacuation of 37 Aeta families (160 individuals) since June 18.

The complainants also condemned the establishment of a military detachment in their community, forced Cafgu recruitment, and intimidation by the soldiers.

Meanwhile, Alex Bagat, CLAA and Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) member, said in a statement that both the government’s development projects and the counter insurgency program under the anti-terrorism and have led to the “massive evacuation of the minorities from their ancestral lands, the violation of their rights, the bastardization of their political rights and their tribal leader’s authority and the prohibition of exercising their traditional and cultural economic practices.”

Bagat worried that martial law-like policies ¾ 7 p.m. curfew; ban on wearing of black t-shirts and use of flashlights; constant interrogation; and illegal home searches ¾ will be implemented in their area like what happened to the other 27 Aeta communities militarized in Central Luzon due to Balikatan exercises.

Bagat called on the president and the Department of National Defense (DND) “to stop the militarization in Aeta and all national minority communities” while urging his fellow national minorities to assert their rights and fight any form of state militarization and development aggression. Bulatlat.com

Back to top

We want to know what you think of this article.