Militant groups expose worsening human rights situation in Quezon, announces formation of task force against militarization

Different sectoral groups from Southern Tagalog led by KARAPATAN-ST and KASAMA-TK today held a press conference to expose the worsening human rights situation in the southern part of Quezon, which they said was caused by intensifying militarization of the rural communities in the said area.

 According to KARAPATAN-ST Secretary General Glenl Malabanan, Eight (8) combat battalions of the Army, the PNP and CAFGU are currently deployed in 22 towns of the 1st and 2nd district of Quezon alone.  She added that, in the history of counterinsurgency operations in Southern Tagalog, they believe this is the largest concentration of military forces in a relatively small area.

 "We are alarmed at the real intention of this large scale militarization. While the AFP is saying that this is part of their efforts to crush down NPA rebels, it is the countryside civilians who become victims to human rights abuse by soldiers," Malabanan said.

 The group cited a case of abduction in March last year in Macalelon town. Unidentified armed men allegedly took Farmer Felix Balaston to the 85th Infantry Battalion's camp. He remains missing to date.


 Just recently, last March 22, 2012, some drunken members of the 74th Infantry Battalion were reported to have manhandled some youth in San Andres town. Other cases of threat, harassment, intimidation, illegal arrest and detention perpetrated against local farmers are also being verified by KARAPATAN-ST.

Malabanan slammed the Aquino government’s counterinsurgency program "Oplan Bayanihan" as the culprit behind the human rights abuse.

KASAMA-TK Secretary General Orly Marcellana, also a native of Quezon, added that while farmers ask for land, the Aquino government replies with battalions of armies. "This proves that there is no difference between Aquino and Arroyo.

The groups in the press conference announced the formation of a task force under the banner "Stop Militarization, Save the People of Quezon" with a rally on May 15 as its kick-off.


 "Like its predecessor, Arroyo's Oplan Bantay Laya, Pres. Aquino's 'Bayanihan' is targeting farmers and rural folks who struggle for land reform and are critical of government anti-people policies. We must not forget that under 'Bantay Laya' there have been 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killings, 206 enforced disappearances, and other human rights violations cases numbering in the thousands. What we see now is a repeat of this situation," Malabanan said. 

 Meanwhile, Pedro "Tata Pido" Gonzales, secretary general of fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA-ST and who hails from Quezon, said in the press conference that the protection of landlord and big business interests could be the real intention of the intensified militarization. He said that though Quezon is rich in agriculture, farmers suffer in the hands of landlords.

"Adding to this burden is the military acting out a private army for landlords and big businessmen," he said.

Then, during the Arroyo regime, farmers call for land but are answered with brutality. Now, the situation remains the same," he said.

"May 15 is well-known for Pahiyas Festival in Quezon where we celebrate the feast day of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers. While during this day we usually give our thanks for a bountiful harvest, our protest action tomorrow will show that there is no reason to celebrate because of the killings and injustices that we are experiencing,” Gonzales said.

The group said a satirical parade will highlight tomorrow's rally where instead of being colorful, typical of a traditional fiesta parade, theirs will show the dark and brutal reality of the countryside because of militarization. ###