Karapatan calls on European community to join demand for military pullout in Abra

Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay today enjoined the European community to echo the call of military pullout in Abra, specifically in Lacub town, when BS Aquino arrives in Europe for his four-nation trip starting tomorrow, Sept. 13. 

“He should be chased for his accountability in the series of human rights violations in the Philippines, and in the recent military operations in Abra which resulted to the killing of two civilians, Engineer Fidela Salvador and Lacub resident Noel Viste. BS Aquino has nothing to brag about the situation in the Philippines, neither on his human rights record, nor the economic condition of the majority of the Filipino people and his so-called good governance,” said Palabay. 

Engr. Salvador was on a monitoring visit for various socio-economic projects implemented by Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services (CorDisRDS) when the killing happened. Noel Viste, a resident of Poblacion, Lacub, Abra was among the 24 civilians who were coerced and used by the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) as human shields in the conduct of their operation. 

A fact-finding mission led by the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), with several Cordillera-based organizations and Karapatan national office, documented a number of human rights violations in Lacub, Abra because of the military operations of the 41st IBPA, among them: 

The AFP used at least 24 civilians as human shields and guides during the operation. Aside from the killing of Viste, they also coerced Nicasio Asbucan to act as guide and later detained him for two days from September 5-7. Asbucan was surfaced and turned-over to Chief of Police of Lacub noon of September 7. He manifested symptoms of acute stress disorder (ASD). The military instructed him to point at Jay-ar Balaoag, Brgy. Capt. Of Lan-ag, Lacub as the NPA who fired at and killed Noel Viste.

Indiscriminate firing. On Sept. 5, between 9:00-10:00 p.m. Army personnel from the 41st IBPA stationed at the So. Bantugo, Poblacion, Lacub indiscriminately fired their weapons in the direction of Talampac Proper and Pacoc, Talampac. An M203 shell landed in Bobon, near residences. The incident resulted in the evacuation of six families who temporarily stayed with their neighbors, suspension of classes in Bantugo Elementary and High School School and Our Lady of Guadalupe High School on September 5 and 8. In addition, three farmers operating the irrigation were forced to sleep in the fields for fear of being strafed.

The military operations also resulted in armed clashes with the New People’s Army. Seven members of the NPA were reported killed while one was arrested and one declared missing. 

“The military encamped in the community, near the Bantugo elementary and high schools. The presence of the military has limited the mobility of the residents, affecting the livelihood activities of the residents,” added Palabay. 

“Military operations in communities all over the country should stop now. Through Oplan Bayanihan, BS Aquino is already accountable for 204 extrajudicial killings,18 of which are minors; 21 enforced disappearances; 99 cases of torture; 207 frustrated killings; and 39,800 victims of forced evacuations," said Palabay citing the latest Karapatan human rights monitor. 

Karapatan’s research showed that for the 2015 budget, more than Php 200 billion are allocated for the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan. 

“BS Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan, like the previous counterinsurgency programs, has created havoc in the lives of the people, but has never succeeded in suppressing dissent and the people’s desire to create a new and progressive society and a government that is responsive to their needs,” said Palabay.