Karapatan hits killing of two abaca farmers mistaken as NPA members

Human rights group Karapatan vehemently assails the murder of two abaca farmers in Catanduanes who, according to their village official, were mistaken as members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in an alleged encounter.

According to Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, Lito Aguilar and Christopher Abraham, along with their colleagues Jimmy Sierra, Joseph Turado, and Jomari Calderon, all abaca farmers and are residents of Brgy. San Miguel, Panganiban town in Catanduanes, went to fish at the local river on the night of September 21 to prepare for additional food on Aguilar’s wedding feast on September 23.

At about 1 am on September 22, as they were preparing to go home, they suddenly heard loud screams as successive gunshots were aimed at them. Aguilar and Abraham were killed. “This incident deserves nothing but the strongest condemnation. The Duterte regime killed two farmers - one who was about to celebrate his wedding and one who made a living to support his 3 children - because the victims were suspected as armed rebels,” she said.

On the same day, the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army released a report saying that they were able to kill two alleged rebels in an “armed encounter” between their 83rd Infantry Battalion, Provincial Mobile Force of the Philippine National Police and suspected members of the NPA. But the barangay official said that Aguilar and Abraham were all residents of their village and that the only reason why they went at the river is to catch fish for Aguilar’s wedding feast.

“How can this government be proud of its campaigns when all they’ve done is to commit mass murder and kill individuals based on mere allegations? Can they bring back all the lives lost?” she asked.

According to the Karapatan official, the government invokes policies such as the Memorandum Order No. 32 which covers in order to go after anyone they want to repress and oppress: “State forces no longer differentiates armed combatants and civilians, and that indicates the dangers of military rule, when people’s rights and international humanitarian law are disregarded,” she said. 

“We enjoin everyone to demand justice for Aguilar, Abraham and all the victims of state-sponsored killings and attacks. We can no longer afford that the perpetrators of state violence walk freely while the number of their victims continue to pile up,” Palabay concluded.