Press Statement | January 31, 2018
Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831
Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580
Attacks against peasants escalate as January ends
“A rare celestial occurrence called the blood moon will be visible today, as the first month of 2018 closes. Yet, on the ground, frequent violations where the blood of farmers and indigenous peoples are spilt have already tainted the fields red. As January closes, attacks against peasant communities have escalated, with the Duterte regime perpetrating a string of unbridled violations against the country’s poorest,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
As of December 2017, Karapatan has documented 126 victims of extrajudicial killings, majority are activists and rights defenders, in line with the Duterte government’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan. Of the 126, 110 are from the the peasant sector.
Palabay cited the frustrated killing of farmer Arturo Colao in Misamis Oriental; the killing of Lumad Ricky Olado in Arakan, North Cotabato; the disappearance of two farmers in Occidental Mindoro; the harassment of a peasant community in Jaro, Leyte, the harassment of a group of farmers in Cagayan Valley; and the continuing militarization of indigenous and peasant communities in Agusan del Sur as among the latest reported cases of attacks against peasant organizations and their communities. “Our calendar of violations for January has been teeming red,” she added.
On January 25, 2017, Arturo Colao, 56, was shot by two unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen in Puting Balas, Talisayan town. The victim was attending a birthday party when the assailants stopped a meter from where he was sitting and started shooting. Colao sustained a gunshot wound on his hip. He is the provincial leader of the Misamis Oriental Farmers Association (MOFA). This is the latest of a series of attempts on Colao’s life.
According to the Malahutayong Pagkigbisog alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU), during the first week of 2018, military troops from the 75th and 36th Infantry Battalion and 16th Special Forces of Philippine Army were deployed in the mountain areas of Lianga, Marihatag, San Agustin, Tago and San Miguel in Surigao del Sur. On January 26, 15 soldiers threatened a couple who were about to harvest corn in their farm. The former ordered the latter to show their IDs and being unable to do so, they took their pictures using a cellphone camera. On that same day, three soldiers pointed their guns at another resident who was in his farm to check on his wild pig trap. Another group of soldiers also blocked a resident travelling on his motorcycle. They asked for his ID and when they discovered he was from Lianga, they said: “People from Lianga are NPAs.”
On January 28, 2017, Ricky Olado, a Lumad and member of the Tinanaon Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa (TIKULPA) was shot dead by suspected military agents while riding his motorcycle towards Brgy. Datu Ladayon, Arakan, North Cotabato. The victim was shot several times. A companion who was with him was also wounded and is currently being treated.
On January 29, 2018, Victorino Estrella Jr., 37, a Community Organizer of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) and a volunteer teacher for the Mangyans of Plan International was reported missing, with Ferdinand Aquino, 49, a farmer and a close relative of Estrella. They were seen riding Aquino’s Honda Wave motorcycle last January 26, 2018 around 2 p.m in Brgy. Sto. Niño, Rizal, Occidental Mindoro and was supposedly on their way home to Brgy. Lilim, Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, which is about an hour away from Brgy. Sto.Niño, but they never made it and lost contact with their families on their whereabouts. As of this writing, Karapatan is still trying to ascertain information regarding this case.
On January 30, 2017, 11 farmers from Zinundungan Valley, Rizal, Cagayan were held in a checkpoint manned by the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) in Magapait, Lallo, Cagayan. The belongings of the farmers were illegally searched without any warrant. The group was also questioned. The farmers came from the wake of Lolita Raza, a peasant killed by elements of the AFP and PNP in Tarlac last January 24, 2017.
Also on January 30, a military official identified as belonging to the 78th IBPA asked for the list of names of the recipients of the Typhoon Urduja relief drive in Brgy. Biga-a, Alang-alang, Leyte. The said individual also attempted to solicit information regarding three local peasant leaders in the area. Elements of the 78th IBPA are currently encamped in Brgy. Rubas, Jaro, Leyte, and have subjected the residents to numerous cases of threat, harassment, and intimidation.
“This begs the question why peasant communities, already among sectors marginalized by the government, are being targeted by the state forces. It is important to note that these attacks are systematic and are part of the government’s crackdown on legal organizations who have continued to raise their critical voices against the Duterte regime’s anti-people policies. Apart from martial law in Mindanao, the continued implementation of Oplan Kapayapaan which openly peddles the idea that peasant communities are the bloodline of rebellion in the country, provides the blanket justification for these incessant attacks,” explained Palabay.
“Just like the Duterte regime’s ineffective drug war campaign, we have another militarist policy that completely misses the point. Instead of heeding the farmers’ calls to land distribution and genuine agrarian reform, along with other calls such as ending militarization and removal of extractive industries, the government responds with ears covered and guns blazing. Clearly, the Duterte regime has stopped listening. By threatening to go after legal and progressive organizations and by failing to address the demands of farmers and other sectors, on top of continued rights abuses and a string of fascist policies, can the government really audaciously ask, without sounding even more inutile, why there is resistance against this tyrannical regime?” Palabay ended.
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
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Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.