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

Vol. V,    No. 15      May 22- 28, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











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Troops Force Manobos To Flee Andap Valley
First of two parts

A rights watch group reports of hundreds of Manobo families evacuating their villages in Andap Valley, Surigao del Sur following relentless military operations against the NPA.


Photo courtesy of Karapatan-Surigao del Sur

ANDAP VALLEY, Surigao del Sur - On April 28, residents of Diatagon in the town of Lianga, Surigao del Sur in southern Philippines wondered what a convoy of 11 Army trucks would be doing in their area.

For nearly a decade, the Manobo residents of Lianga and nearby towns of San Miguel, San Agustin, Marihatag, Tago, Tandag and Lanuza had thrived without military operations as massive as the one that had come now.

On that day, three farmers in nearby Cagwait town were on their way to finish their work in the coconut farm.  None were able to do so as soldiers came and seized them.

The three - Nicolas Suazo, Jessie Payac and Rogelio Sumaya - recounted to Karapatan-Surigao del Sur the torture they underwent in the hands of the soldiers of the 58th IB and 6th Scout Rangers. Plastic bags were stuffed over their heads, their arms burned by cigarettes, and nozzles of guns poked on their heads, they told the rights watchdog. The three were the first to fall into the hands of the soldiers who swooped into the towns and villages of Andap Valley.

The three said they were interrogated by the soldiers on the whereabouts of New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in the area. All of them were tortured, as they could not give the answers the soldiers wanted.

Threatened to be shot

"Eat up because you will bring this with you in death!", Suazo recalled the soldiers' words as they mocked him by shoving food at him. They threatened to shoot him and have his brains scattered on the ground.

When it was Payac's turn to be interrogated, the soldiers hit him in the head and threatened him with a bolo stab and whack in the body. Using a takong (lower part of the coconut branch) as a whip, the soldiers forced him to lie face down on the ground, while repeatedly threatening to kill him. Sumaya was pinned down too and punched in the stomach. The soldiers scared him off by a whack of a bolo.

The next day, Karapatan said, another farmer in another barrio of the same town called Mam-on, Tubo-Tubo fell into the hands of the military men. Rene Boy Guisando was tending to his rice paddy ready for harvest when two soldiers – with no names on their uniforms except an Army patch - approached him.

Speaking to him in Tagalog, the two soldiers, the poor farmer recalled, forced him to reveal the whereabouts of NPA guerillas. Then he was made to take off his clothes. They pressed his shoulders hard, twisted his arms behind his back, and poked the nozzles of their guns on his chest and his sides. The farmer said he was brought to a group of 20 soldiers and was passed from one soldier to another for questioning.

Unable to answer their questions, the soldiers, he said, beat him with a rattan stick and kicked him relentlessly. They dared him to run. He did not - he feared he would be shot.

Minors not spared

Even a minor was not spared by the soldiers’ beatings, Karapatan said. A 17-year old farmer, Charlie Oclarit of San Agustin, was also subjected to torture known as "dry submarine".  This is done by putting cellophane on the head to suffocate the victim in order to make him yield to their questioning.

As he was blindfolded and tied, Charlie said he could not remember how many times his face was slapped by the soldiers.  He was also made to lie prone on the ground while a soldier mockingly sat on his back. The ordeal lasted for two hours.

A family's ordeal

According to Karapatan, two other minors from Magkahunao in San Agustin, 17-year old Junrey Casil, and Ranly Casil, only 13, were forced to act as guides for the soldiers. They were also abused and beaten up by the soldiers, the two said.

Junrey recalled that after being beaten several times he and Ranly were forced to lead the military in their search operation. He was forced to carry a kerosene container. The cover of the kerosene container was intentionally removed by soldiers, he said, so that Junrey's skin got burned when the chemical trickled on his bare skin.

Along with farmer Junrey Cata, 18, the brothers were brought to the forest where they spent the night in the rain with the military.  They endured the whole night tied up to a tree without ever sitting or lying down, the three youths told Karapatan.

On the next day, May 5, the military went on their hunt, with the three boys as their guide. The boys said they were used as shields by the troops while they went on tracking down the NPA guerrillas. The elder of the Casil brothers, whose hands were still tied, was put on the first line. In the middle was Junrey Cata and the youngest Ranly Casil was at the back.  On the road, their captors repeatedly pressured them to join the military and even told them they would receive at least P5,000 a month.

With the Casil brothers held for two days by the military, their father and three other relatives made a frantic search for them.  They ended up in Casil's house in Andap, Marihatag where the three stayed for the night with their captors.  The ordeal would have ended with the reunion of the family, but the soldiers instead held the father Arnulfo and the three other relatives, namely, Lolong Casil, Lowi Casil and Joel Amahan.

Bombings and villagers fleeing

Military operations escalated a few days later as soldiers resorted to bombings and burning of houses, Karapatan said. Five houses were set on fire in Palompon, San Agustin on May 2.  Mountainous areas of Magkahunao were also bombed. The next day, communities of Magkahunao and Yadawan were sprayed with bullets at daytime and bombed at night.

On May 9, a howitzer posted at Pong-on, San Agustin rained bombs on Magkahunao, Lagangan, Caras-an and Tago, forcing more residents to flee their communities. The following day, 28 families deserted Magkahunao to Han-ayan and Diatagon.

Earlier on May 5, families from the Yadawan, Buhisan, San Agustin had evacuated to Han-ayan while some fled to Diatagon.

By May 11, at least 87 families fled the hinterlands of Diatagon called Mambog and Manluy-a, Montenegreen, Marihatag, Kabuluhan, and Buhisan.

The following day, three more farmers – Tony Tamparong, Fortun and his son JunJun - were reportedly snatched by the military. The three were released later.

An evacuee shot

Karapatan also said that on May 12, a farmer in Km.9 Emerald named Jessie Bacasmas, was shot while he was climbing aboard a truck that was carrying evacuees to Diatagon.
His wife, 21-year old Jessica, and his neighbors watched with horror as his body fell to the ground. A bullet wound was found below his right ribcage.

Jessie's nephew, Dante, said that no one was able to spot who among the soldiers stationed in their village fired the shot.  But he said that no one was armed on that time except for the soldiers.


Reports from Karapatan said that 1, 319 individuals or 181 families were cramped in the elementary school and gymnasium in Diatagon in Lianga, while some 29 families or 173 individuals evacuated to Caras-an in Tago. Some 57 families or more than 300 individuals have evacuated to Buhisan in San Agustin, while 166 families had evacuated to Marihatag.

The military operations that raged for almost two weeks in Andap
Valley, left the residents war-weary and hungry. Life in the evacuation center was equally nightmarish, as they lived in cramped and squalid quarters.

A Manobo community leader in Km. 9 Emerald in Lianga, Jenasque Enriquez, said that they long to return to their lands.   "This (evacuation) is a big sacrifice on our part.  We want to return to our land where we can work again in our farms." Bulatlat

Thriving Valley Hit by Humanitarian Crisis (Conclusion)
Photo Essay: Suffer Thy Children



© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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