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Vol. VI, No. 28      August 20 - 26, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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Two Presidents and the Lupao Massacre

The town of Lupao in Nueva Ecija province was the site of a massacre where government soldiers under President Corazon Aquino killed 17 peasants in 1987.  The same town is now reeling under a “continuing massacre” – the onslaught of killings and abductions of civilians by suspected military agents under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s counterinsurgency campaign.

By Abner Bolos
Gitnang Luson News Service
Posted by Bulatlat

Namulandayan village, the site of the Lupao massacre


LUPAO, Nueva Ecija -Young rice grow robust in rice paddies in a small wooded hill in Sitio (sub-village) Padlao. But there are no houses here, only a lone abandoned hut and a haystack stand. Old cement structures on the ground bear witness to what used to be a community before the infamous Lupao massacre 19 years ago.


On Feb. 10, 1987, a platoon of government troops killed 17 farmers and their families including six children and two septuagenarians in Sitio Padlao, Barangay Namulandayan, Lupao, Nueva Ecija in retaliation for the death of their commanding officer who was sniped by New People’s Army guerrillas.


The carnage happened a year after the historic “people power” uprising installed Corazon Cojuangco-Aquino as president in February 1986. Aquino shortly after unsheathed the “sword of war” against the Marxist-led rebellion and unleashed a vicious attack that victimized mostly civilians.


The incident came to be known as the Lupao massacre, and shocked the world along with Aquino’s declaration of “total war” against the very same people who helped her become president. The 24 soldiers of the 14th Infantry Battalion were tried before a military court. They were all acquitted.


Before Aquino’s term ended in 1992, some 50 right-wing vigilante groups backed by the military sprouted all over the country.  A long wave of human rights abuses resulted in the death of some 1,064 people mostly farmers and workers, the disappearance of at least 830 people and 135 cases of massacres.


Like now President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Aquino reaped harsh criticisms from local and other foreign human rights watch groups including Amnesty International.   


Aquino failed to quell the popular movement demanding land, jobs and justice. By all indications, Arroyo, who also became president via a popular uprising in 2001, is headed the same way.




Igmedio Facunla, secretary general of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon (AMGL-NE, Central Luzon Peasant Alliance-Nueva Ecija chapter) recalls that after the Lupao massacre, Namulandayan was practically deserted but the residents came back in trickles over the years as military operations waned.


In October last year, 30 more families went back to the village and started tilling the land. They harvested and planted new crops but now everything has become uncertain for the farmers because of intense military operations, Facunla told GLNS.


“It’s being repeated. Abuses from military operations sow fear in the villages and farmers are forced to leave their farms,” Facunla said.


Lupao is one of the towns in Nueva Ecija province reeling from a fresh onslaught of killings and abductions which have gripped the Central Luzon region since Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan vowed to crush the armed revolutionary movement before he retires next month.




Fr. Arlyn Ragaza, Lupao town parish priest who accompanied reporters to Namulandayan last week, pointed to a building near the school in the village center as he drove. “That’s the village hall the soldiers use as their detachment. It’s there where the interrogations take place,” he said.

SUPPLY RUN-OUT: “There are no more cedulas,” the sign posted at the door of this office at the Lupao Municipal Hall says, as an employee looks on                       PHOTO BY DABET CASTAÑEDA

Since June, soldiers have encamped in eight of the 20 villages in Lupao, including Namulandayan and Parista. Ragaza said the soldiers have a list of names of residents that they summon to the detachment for interrogations. He said that about 20 residents of Namulandayan who are in the list have not been seen since then and may have left the village out of fear.


Ragaza is known to be the only priest in Nueva Ecija province who goes to the detachments whenever a parishioner who has been summoned by soldiers asks for his help. He knows first-hand that people get hurt during interrogations.


“I was outside (the interrogation room). But I can hear blows being dealt on the person and his pleas for the beating to stop,” he said recalling the interrogation of a farmer who sought his help at the detachment in Namulandayan. He said the victim’s four-year old child was a witness to the interrogation and since then, he has asked the soldiers not to do the interrogations in front of children.



Last August 9, Ragaza attended a dialogue between church leaders led by Bishop Mylo Vergara and military officers under General Palparan. Palparan himself attended the dialogue. In the dialogue, the church leaders told the military officers that they have a right to assist their parishioners and must not be prevented nor be placed under suspicion.


Continuing massacre


But Facunla asserts that recent events in Lupao and in the rest of the province are a “continuing massacre” of peasants and other civilians.


Since the transfer of Palparan in Central Luzon in September last year, some 21 civilians, mostly peasant leaders, have been killed in extra-judicial executions and eight people have been abducted and remained missing in the province, according to Karapatan-Nueva Ecija, a local rights watch group.


The most recent victim is village council member Julie Velasquez, who was shot and killed by suspected military agents on the night of Aug. 16 at a wake near a detachment of the 71st IB in Barangay Culong, Guimba town.


Mother and son Tessie and Rodel Abellera, both Bayan Muna activists who were abducted last July 13 in Barangay Parista, Lupao remain missing, as well as Philip Dela Cruz who was abducted also in Parista last July 20. Mario Florendo was killed in his home in the same village last July 3.


Facunla observed that what happened during the Aquino administration is happening today. “Without military presence, farmers are able to improve their lives through self-help and tilling their farms. When soldiers come, they are attacked and their efforts are disrupted. The soldiers’ excuse is always that the farmers are supporting the NPA,” he said


Historical parallels


There are other historical parallels in the counter-insurgency effort of both the Aquino and Arroyo governments.


Palparan, whom Arroyo commended in her State of the Nation Address for his fight against “the night of terror” in Central Luzon, had played a key role in Aquino’s counter-insurgency campaign, in the same region.  Palparan earned his spurs as a counter-insurgency expert in the late 1980s and early 1990s in Pampanga where as a junior officer he commanded the 24th IB. Today, the 24th IB is under the 7th Infantry Division, the command that covers the Central Luzon region, and which Palparan heads until his retirement.


In the post-Marcos period, terms like “salvaging” and “vigilante groups” became widely used during Palparan’s time in the late 1980s. He has been blamed in Pampanga for the killing of a number of progressive personalities including lawyer Ram Cura in Angeles City. The vigilante group Angel Simbulan Brigade also appeared during his time in Pampanga.


Organizations and personalities identified with the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan, New Patriotic Alliance) bore the brunt of human rights abuses during this period. The military claims Bayan is a front organization of the Communist Party of the Philippines.




During the 1980s, in the aftermath of the U.S. defeat in the Vietnam War, U.S. military policy shifted to the “low intensity conflict” (LIC) doctrine. Instead of direct involvement of American troops in combat, local troops of “host” countries were trained to fight “proxy wars” with rebels.


The Aquino government adopted this policy and called it “total war” against the communist-led armed rebellion but failed to crush it.


Today’s “war on terror” promoted by George W. Bush is the wellspring of Arroyo’s “all-out war” against the CPP and the NPA which she declared last June. But the policy, outlined in the government’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, appears to be doing damage only to civilians and not the armed rebels.


Media reports tend to show that the NPAs continue to attack government troops, outposts and detachments.


As civilian casualties mount, Arroyo’s desire to crush the insurgency in two years, or at most, before her term ends in 2010 appears to be getting nowhere.


War against the people


For peasant leader Facunla, the people of Lupao have seen the worst of the government’s past counterinsurgency campaigns and have lived through them.


“The Arroyo government is waging war against its own people. The orphans and the widows, and the other victims of political repression are in unbearable pain right now. But the dark night will end,” he said.


He said that “a government who makes war with its own people cannot last and those who survive the nightmare will continue the struggle.” Bulatlat 



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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