Rights group slams appointment of Palparan cohort, Hacienda Luisita massacre co-conspirator

Human rights group Karapatan today deplored the recent assignment of Brig. Gen. Ricardo Visaya as “acting commander” of the 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Cagayan de Oro City. 

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said “the installation of Visaya reveals the intent of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to heighten attacks against people’s rights, especially in Mindanao. Brig. Gen. Visaya was among Ret. Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan’s cohorts when the military’s terror reigned in Central Luzon through Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya. He was former commanding general of the 69th IB-PA responsible for the Hacienda Luisita massacre in November 2004.”

According to Karapatan’s records, “Visaya, an attack dog of the AFP, left a trail of human rights violations wherever he was assigned.” Karapatan noted that among the many cases that Visaya is responsible for are:

 

  • The abduction and torture of farmers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo in February 2006, where elements of the 69th IB-PA, headed by Visaya, are directly involved. The Manalo brothers escaped after more than two years in captivity and are principal witnesses to the abduction, torture and rape of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen  Empeño; The 69th IB-PA is among other military units under Palparan’s 7th Infantry Division.
  • The massacre and frustrated killing of Hacienda Luisita farmers and farm workers in November 2004, when elements of the Philippine National Police, AFP Northern Luzon Command, 33rd Light Armor Company, and the 69th IB-PA under Visaya fired at striking farmers and farm workers. The workers protested against the unjust labor practices of the Cojuangcos and called for land distribution. Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s family owns the vast tracts of lands and, despite the Supreme Court, the land distribution has yet to materialize; 
  • The massive deployment of soldiers under Visaya’s Civil Military Operation (CMO) Battalion in Metro Manila communities from February to September 2007 that resulted to numerous cases of threats, harassment and intimidation especially among members and leaders of progressive organizations, as well as partisan campaigning against progressive partylist organizations and recruitment of intelligence agents among the people;
  • Threats, harassment and intimidation of DOLE Philippines’ farm workers during their union election in February 2011. Visaya headed the 27th IBPA assigned in Polomolok, South Cotabato. Visaya’s troops reportedly targeted leaders and members of the incumbent union affiliated with the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU);
  • Encampment and use of barangay halls, day care centers, chapels, and other civilian facility by troops under 901st IBPA in villages in Albay. Also, Visaya tried to justify the killing and beheading of Albay village councilor Ely Oguis in November 2012 by accusing Oguis as tax collector of the New People’s Army (NPA).

 

Visaya replaced Maj. Gen. Nestor Anonuevo who was reportedly recalled to Camp Aguinaldo following the wounding of Gingoog Mayor Ruth Guingona. 

“We lament the wounding of Mayor Guingona and the death of her two bodyguards. But the government should not use this as a convenient excuse for the massive deployment of the military troops, that will be led by terror dogs like Visaya. This is not the road to peace. The GPH and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) need to advance the peace talks to genuinely address the root causes of people’s rights violations,” Palabay commented.
Karapatan said the statements from Pres. Aquino, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and Malacañang spokesperson

Edwin Lacierda ordering the military to step up offensives against the New People’s Army (NPA) and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) are indications of the heightened implementation of Oplan Bayanihan, which had already left 137 victims of extrajudicial killings, 72 victims of torture,  498 cases of illegal arrests, and 30, 260 victims of forced evacuation (Karapatan statistics as of December 2012). 

“The installation of both an Oplan Bantay Laya and an Oplan Bayanihan operators to direct the increasing military troops in the area will definitely terrorize the people in Mindanao,” concluded Palabay.