Karapatan slams fake surrenders in Rizal, bombings in Kalinga

Human rights alliance Karapatan slammed a fabricated surrender ceremony yesterday at 1K2 Kasiglahan Village, Rodriguez where close to 400 local residents were deceived and coerced into signing a surrender form by elements of the 80th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said they received reports from Karapatan-Rizal and Citizens Rights Watch Network that residents of Kasiglahan Village were called by barangay officials on March 12, 2023 to gather at the Ynares Multi-purpose Building purportedly to benefit from the government’s free housing program. “Once they had gathered, however,” said Palabay, “a document was passed around stating they they were ‘NPA surrenderees.'”

Up to 389 attendees were forced to sign the document entitled Katunayan ng Pagkakaisa or Proof of Unity which bears the words “dating sumusuporta sa CPP-NPA-NDF” and “hindi kailanman sumuporta, susuporta sa CPP-NPA-NDF” and attend the mass oath-taking/mass surrender ceremony conducted by the Municipal Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict (MTF-ELCAC).

“With the rampant red-tagging going on,” said Palabay, “and the dangers this poses to red-tagged individuals, we fear for the safety and security of the signatories to the document.” Two members of local mass organization SIKKAD-K3, Mark Lee Bacasno and Melvin Dasigao who were among those killed in the Bloody Sunday incident of March 7, 2021, had also been red-tagged prior to their killing.

“The NTF-ELCAC and its local counterparts have been resorting to forced surrenders in violation of the rights of civilians under international humanitarian law, and to make it appear that they are winning the counter-insurgency war, even if such bogus activities do nothing about addressing the roots of the armed conflict,” said Palabay.

Meanwhile, Palabay raised concerns about the safety of civilians after receiving reports that the military has been conducting indiscriminate bombing and shelling near the mountains of Barangay Gawa-an in Balbalan, Kalinga since March 5, 2023.

“The Philippine government is a signatory to several international humanitarian law protocols guaranteeing the safety and security of civilians in the conduct of the counter-insurgency war, said Palabay, “and yet, according to local residents, the gunfire and bombings are too close to civilian residences.”

“Nine citizens from Sitios Uta and Codcodwe who were supposed to check on their carabaos, and seven who were supposed to rescue the first two were reportedly held by the military for almost seven hours at Pinalaw before being released,” added Palabay.

“The military has reported that an alleged NPA member was supposedly killed in an encounter between the 50th IBPA and the local guerrillas on March 9,” said Palabay. “But we have yet to receive confirmation if the alleged casualty is really an NPA member or a civilian killed in the military’s bombings and shellings.”

Karapatan called on the Commission on Human Rights to conduct investigations on the recent incidents in Rizal and Kalinga, as it pressed for the halt to AFP military operations in the said communities.

“These blatant violations of international humanitarian law under the Marcos Jr. regime affect thousands of civilians, but the government turns its blind eye to these violations in the name of ‘peace and security.’ This state of impunity continues as long as no one is made to answer for these crimes,” Palabay said.