KARAPATAN slams raid on KMP leader’s house, threats vs peasants and rights advocates

KARAPATAN condemned the series of raids and incidents of harassment against peasant leaders in Bulacan as well as farmers and rights advocates in Negros and Batangas, warning that they may be a prelude to a major crackdown on peasant leaders, activists and farmers’ rights advocates.

“At 7 a.m. today, June 18, 2024,” said KARAPATAN secretary general Cristina Palabay, “five soldiers reportedly barged into, and ransacked, the house of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general and Tanggol Magsasaka spokesperson Ronnie Manalo in Barangay San Roque, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. The soldiers, who did not present a search warrant and were not accompanied by policemen or barangay officials, planted a firearm in Manalo’s house. A relative of Manalo’s was likewise interrogated and could not be contacted as of this writing.”

“Three and a half hours later,” she continued, “military men likewise swooped into nearby Barangay Paradise 3 asking for the whereabouts of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan (AMB) chairperson Cecile Rapiz. Local residents also reported seeing a company-size group of soldiers along the common boundaries of Barangays San Roque, Paradise 3 and Tungkong Mangga. Checkpoints have reportedly been set up in the area, preventing residents of San Roque and Paradise 3 from leaving their villages.”

“The planting of a firearm in Manalo’s residence,” said Palabay, “shows that State forces are concocting a trumped-up case of illegal possession of firearms against him.” There may be other similar ready-made cases against other leaders of KMP and its affiliates, she added.

Barangays San Roque, Paradise 3 and Tungkong Mangga are known as a major source of produce for the Bagsakan Bungkalan Farmers Market, a farm-to-market project of the KMP that holds bazaars in different parts of Metro Manila to sell lower-priced fruits and vegetables grown by farmers nationwide.

Recent incidents of harassment against activists and ordinary citizens have likewise been documented by Karapatan, said Palabay.

In Batangas, a man who identified himself as a policeman asked barangay officials from Bauan, Batangas for the whereabouts of Tanggol Batangan paralegal Juvie Ann Biding last June 10, 2024. As a human rights worker, Biding has been providing services to political prisoners in their province and has also been involved in various humanitarian missions in Batangas and other parts of Southern Tagalog. She has reported being under surveillance and harassed multiple times since April this year and has filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights.

In Negros Occidental, the Human Rights Alliance of Negros reported that an ordinary farmer was harassed in her house in Barangay Amontay, Binalbagan on June 13, 2024 by eight men in civilian clothes who carried sacks concealing firearms. The farmer, Evelyn Manait, a member of the Ituman-Bukidnon tribe, was interrogated on the whereabouts of her husband and brother-in-law who the men accused of being members of the New People’s Army. Manait answered that her husband had gone to another town to sell mangoes and denied knowing where her brother-in-law was. She later learned that the men were elements of the 62nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. HRAN said that Manait now fears for her safety after the incident.

“These forms of harassment and threats are committed with impunity by State security forces, as sanctioned by the Marcos administration through its counterinsurgency program. KARAPATAN calls on human rights advocates and the public to strongly denounce these rights violations which are prelude to worse forms of violations as military operations continue in rural areas,” Palabay said. #