KARAPATAN denounces military harassment, psychological torture of brgy kagawad in Sorsogon

Continued military harassment has claimed another victim.

Eddie Berania, a farmer and barangay kagawad of San Juan Daan, Bulan, Sorsogon died of an apparent suicide on February 25, 2024. His family found him hanging from the roof of his hut on the morning of February 25, after he had been repeatedly threatened and harassed by soldiers from the 22nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA). The soldiers were accompanied by Ronnie “Tatang” Albao, a so-called rebel surrenderee who has been a fixture in military operations since he was forced to surrender. Albao and the soldiers would accuse Berania of having been involved in various crimes and demanded information which he had been unable to provide.

Berania’s family recalled that since 2022, the victim had been pressured by Albao and the soldiers to surrender as an NPA member even if he was a civilian, a barangay official on his second term who headed the village’s Peace and Order Committee and an active member of Manghod, a civil society organization in Bulan town based in Barangay San Juan Daan. The pressure on Berania had mounted since February 6, 2024 when soldiers began occupying every barangay in Bulan town, including San Juan Daan where there were 12 troopers stationed at the barangay hall.

Berania’s case echoes that of Susano Labora, a 60-year-old trade unionist from Davao City who succumbed to a stroke after three men who introduced themselves as “admins” of the Philippine Army interrogated him for two consecutive days in May 2023 and tried to force him to become an informer for the military. Labora had reported being under surveillance since 2021. He died in hospital of another stroke on May 6, 2023, a day after his interrogation.

The intense pressure suffered by the victims qualifies as psychological or mental torture, punishable under the Anti-Torture Law. Karapatan demands justice for Kagawad Eddie Berania, Susano Labora and all other victims of the intense threats, harassment and intimidation being perpetrated by State forces, and likewise demands that the State forces responsible for their suffering be held accountable.