HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Troops Force Manobos To Flee Andap Valley
First of two
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.
By TYRONE VELEZ
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 -
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
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
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
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.
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
Suffer Thy Children
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2004 Bulatlat
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