Two farmers feared abducted by elements of the 36th IBPA in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur, Philippines

Inlate August 2010, residents of Brgy. Mahaba were forced to evacuate from theircommunity when soldiers from the 36th IBPA conducted a massivemilitary operation in the area that resulted to a spate of human rightsviolations against civilians after a clash with the New People's Army (NPA).(Refer to UA No: 2010-09-01)


Inthe course of the evacuation, two farmers went missing.


Agustito“Tito” Ladera was last seen by his brother, Geddion, and Glenn Keliste whenthey left him behind in their abaca farm in Sitio Pinagdayonan on 28 August2010 upon learning that


residentswere leaving the community to a safer place. Tito told Geddion  and Glenn to goahead because he still had some abaca fibers to dry.  Geddion and Glenn left and joined theirfamilies to the evacuation center.


On2 September, some evacuees from Brgy. Mahaba, with the help of local governmentofficials, were allowed to visit their homes in the village to get some oftheir things.  Geddion and his fatherwere part of this group.  They went tothe farm to fetch Tito but he was not there nor was he outside when theysearched for him.  They noticed thatamong their things, a small backpack and some clothes were missing.  Hoping that Tito has gone to one of theirrelatives’ house, Geddion and his father went back to the evacuation center andcontinued to search for him.


Meanwhile,on 1 September 2010, Renato Deliguer, who lives with his maternal grandfatherin Brgy. Mahaba, went to Brgy. Pong-on, San Agustin (adjacent town toMarihatag), where his parents are residing, to ask permission from his father,Hipolito, that he was going to harvest some abaca from his farm in Pagiwasan,Brgy. Mahaba.  From Brgy. Pong-on, Renatowent home to apprise his grandfather of his plan then he proceeded to Pagiwasan.  Since the farm is in the mountainous part ofthe town and is quite far from both his parent's and grandfather's house,family members are used to Renato’s long absences when he visited the farm,sometimes staying in the farm hut for days while gathering abaca.


On8 September, the day the evacuees finally went back to their homes in thecommunities, Hipolito went to his father-in-law's house in Brgy. Mahaba, toinvite Renato to go with him to the farm. It was then that he learned that his son has not come home since the dayhe left for the farm on 1 September. Hipolito decided to check the farm on the 13th of Septemberafter everything has settled down.


Onthat same day, Tito's father went back to their farm in Pinagdayonan, but itwas still empty.  Tito was nowhere to befound.


Ataround 10:00 in the morning of 13 September, Hipolito arrived at their farm andfound the hut in total disarray.  Therewere plenty of combat boot prints on the ground around the hut.  Their water containers and cooking pot withrice were on the ground, with their contents all spilled.  When he entered the hut, clothes were strewneverywhere, the sleeping mat was spread out on the floor and the mosquito nethas not been taken down. 


Hipolitoquickly tidied the hut and went straight to the house of barangay (village)chairperson Bernandita Abis to report what he discovered.  He told her that he suspected the military'sinvolvement with his son's disappearance. Bernandita denied any knowledge of the incident.


Hipolitocame back to Brgy. Mahaba the following day, 14 September, accompanied by LandoGerona, a councilor of Brgy. Pong-on; Jaime Padon and Jake Lacerna who are allRenato's uncles.  Bernandita told them togo to the 36th IBPA camp in  Brgy.Dayoan in the town of Tago because she received information from a reliable source that there were two men arrested bythe military.  Hipolito also received atext

message from his sister-in-law, Emilda Lacerna, thata certain Rene Deliguer was brought by the military to the Philippine NationalPolice (PNP) station in Tandag City. 


On that same day, Tito's family heard of thedisappearance of Renato and the information that two men were arrested by thesoldiers of the 36th IBPA. Geddion  went to Hipolito to getany information.   Hipolito told himabout the two men allegedly arrested by the military and turned over to thepolice.  Geddion feared that one of thetwo men was his brother, Tito.


After his talk with Geddion, Hipolito accompanied byEmilda and village chief of Pong-on, Efren Gozon, went to Tandag City PNP.  The police showed them the pictures of thetwo men reportedly from Brgy. San Pedro and San Isidro who were turned over tothem  by the military earlier thatday.  None of them was Renato.  They requested to be allowed to see thedetention cell to see for themselves if Renato was not inside, the policedeclined.  They were advised to go to the36th IBPA camp in Brgy. Dayoan.


They went straight to the camp, arriving there ataround 2:00 PM.  Seven soldiers in civilianclothes took turns in interrogating them. The soldiers insisted that the detainees were not from Brgy. Pong-on andMahaba, and dismissed the group's request for permission to see the saiddetainees.  The group left the camp ataround 4:00 PM tired and worried about Renato.


Hipolito went back to Tandag PNP bringing with himRenato's voter's identification card, to show to the police that his son is notan NPA.  He became more worried uponlearning from the police that the military came back for the two detainees andthey were not in police custody anymore.


Geddion and Hipolito are now being assisted by theKapunongan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Surigao del Sur (KAMASS) or Farmers' Associationof Surigao del Sur in lobbying with local government units both at themunicipal and provincial levels in their search for Tito and Renato.  They were also accompanied by KAMASS leadersto radio stations to appeal to the public for any information about the twodisappeared persons.


Governor Johnny Pimentel and the Provincial Board ofSurigao del Sur requested for a dialogue with the military to take place on 4October to discuss Tito and Renato's disappearance.


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