Karapatan junks AFP proposal for "people's participation" in counter-insurgency plan

Karapatan junks AFP proposal for "people's participation" in counter-insurgency plan; 
cites human rights violations in Marihatag, Surigao de Sur

The human rights alliance, KARAPATAN, dismissed current AFP proposals for "people's participation" in counter-insurgency operations as it revealed grave human rights violations in the on-going AFP military campaign in Brgy. Mahaba, Marihatag, Surigao del Sur.

About 164 families with 754 individuals, including 98 children ages 0 to 5 years old and seven pregnant women, in three sitios of Palompon, Boringon and Loknodon of Barangay Mahaba in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur province, Mindanao, were displaced as a result of the military operations under Oplan Bantay-Laya extended by Pres. Aquino.

Troops of the 36th IB PA under Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Rene Canete and elements of the Scout Rangers; Surigao del Sur under PNP Director Quinonez conducted the local operations.

Last August 22, Marihatag local government officials initiated a dialogue between the residents and the government forces.  The commanding officer of the 36th IBPA, Lt. Col. Rene Canete and 1Lt. Serihim Temperante, attended the dialogue as well as the barangay council members of Brgy. Mahaba.  The residents pleaded with the soldiers to leave their community but they refused citing the National Government’s anti-insurgency campaign as justification of their presence.

Barely a week after the residents returned to their farms, on August 26, eight Marihatag residents, including a minor, were illegally arrested, detained and tortured by troops of the 36th IB PA. Arrested were Salvador Dayola, Josemar Dayola, 14-year old son of Salvador and a grade 6 student, Rolan Salamangka, Junry Kileste, Elly Ambongan, Dimuel Kileste, Bryan Udtohan and Rymon Alameda.

At gunpoint, they were interrogated, hogtied, dragged and tortured.  The soldiers beat them up, stomped and; with their combat boots on, walked on the victims’ backs, exposed them to the rain, made them eat spoiled food, covered their heads with plastic bags and choked them; these while being forced to confess where they allegedly hid firearms. Salvador's son was threatened to be buried alive or be dropped from a helicopter in flight.   The interrogations went on for five hours before the victims were released.

On 31 August, the Marihatag Municipal Peace and Order Committee (MPOC) met.  Concerned church people and some evacuees attended the session with Lt. Col. Rene R. Canete, Battalion Commanding Officer, 36IB PA; 1Lt. Serihim Temperante, 36IB PA, 1Lt. Charlynne C. Gabatin, 36IB PA; Katrina M. Cruz, 36IB PA of the AFP; Provincial Administrator Efren Rivas as Surigao del Sur Provincial LGU representative; members of the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC), Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, Marihatag Municipal LGU representatives and Brgy. Mahaba LGU officials.

Representatives of the evacuees asked the soldiers to allow them safe passage so that they could save more of their properties and farm animals but the military refused to allow them. Last September 3, evacuees tried to transfer to the Provincial Capitol in Tandag City but were harassed and forced to turn back by combined forces of the local PNP and the 36th IB PA.

At the evacuation center, there is an outbreak of chicken pox and conjunctivitis while 60 patients, mostly children ages 0-6 years old have been treated for diarrhea, upper and lower respiratory diseases and fever.  There is a shortage of food, especially milk for the children, clean potable water, essential medicines, medical services and sanitation facilities.

“The military’s plan to conscript citizens into its counter-insurgency operations is a dangerous move to distort public perception, project the military as human rights advocates while violating the people’s rights and deceive the people that the military observes respect for human rights during these operations,” expounded Marie Hilao Enriquez, Chairperson of Karapatan.  “The public must be educated on the reality of military operations going on in the rural areas outside town and urban centers like those in Marihatag, Surigao Del Sur and in the villages of Negros Oriental and in other areas targeted under the OBL,” added Enriquez. 

Karapatan and local rights defenders continue to assist the evacuees as it called on Pres. Aquino to stop the counter-insurgency operations.  “We exhort the public NOT to be deceived by these supposed plans and acts of the AFP in winning the public’s trust to allow them to go on with the brutal counter-insurgency campaigns,” concluded Enriquez.