AFP killing of civilians, encampment in communities continue amid GRP unilateral ceasefire

“We call on Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to rein in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and pull them out of civilian communities, amid his unilateral ceasefire declaration,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said in outrage on the death of Compostela Farmers Association (CFA) leader Jimmy Saypan.

Saypan, 48, was the secretary-general of CFA, a local peasant organization affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas. Through the years, the peasants led by CFA have consistently campaigned against Agusan Petroleum and Minerals Corporation (AGPET), a mining subsidiary of Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco’s San Miguel Corporation. The CFA has been petitioning for the revocation of AGPET’s exploration permit in the farmers’ lands and communities since 2012, saying the entry of AGPET will affect farmers’ livelihood and their land. AGPET’s mining operations will also displace small-scale miners of villages of Nursery, Bango, Pulang Lupa, Mambusao and Kantigbaw, all located in Brgy. Ngan, where Saypan lived. AGPET’s exploration has already expired but the company still operates to this day. 

“To secure AGPET’s mining area, 10th Infantry Division’s 66th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) is deployed there,” Palabay said. “The communities have suffered years of terror under the Philippine Army: the burning of Lumad-Matigsalog school; military encampment in the communities; the killing of CFA leaders Danny Qualvar in 2008 and Bello Tindasan in 2015,” she added. 

At around 6 a.m. of October 10, 2016, on board his motorcycle, Saypan was on his way to back to Brgy. Ngan, Compostela, Compostela Province. While passing by Brgy. New Visayas, Montevista, a man riding a motorcycle chased and shot at him. Bearing three gunshot wounds, he even attempted to go after his assailant. After this proved futile, he drove back home. He was able to call for his neighbor and family for help before he collapsed. 

Saypan was rushed to Montevista District Hospital and was later transferred to Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City. According to his wife, it seemed his husband was going to recover well. It was only in the afternoon the next day, October 11, that his pulse started to weaken. Despite efforts to revive him, Saypan was declared dead at 2:20 p.m.

A week before the incident, a dialogue was held between the 66th IBPA and the CFA. The farmers demanded for the pull-out of military troops in Lumad and peasant communities. Saypan had been receiving threats from the 66th IBPA. His name was once included in flyers containing an Order of Battle list which were distributed around Compostela.

Karapatan documented at least eight (8) political killings, including the case of Saypan, since Pres. Duterte’s declaration of unilateral ceasefire in August 2016.

Like their fellow soldiers in Compostela, military troops in Abra continue their operations in communities. On September 27, 2016, thirty (30) soldiers from the 24th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army arrived at Barangay Bazar in Sallapadan, Abra in full combat gear. The community, with more than 600 residents, was surprised by the presence of the soldiers as they were aware of the existence of a simultaneous unilateral ceasefire declaration of the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. 

The soldiers encamped in an abandoned house beside the barangay captain’s and monitored the residents. They regularly interrogate residents from the area.  After the community members questioned their presence, the soldiers misinformed the residents, saying the unilateral ceasefire was already lifted.

“Human rights violations against civilians are bound to continue if AFP troops won’t pull out from communities and while counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan is still in place,” Palabay said.