Rights group denounces killings, threats vs peasant leader, activists

KARAPATAN condemns the escalating attacks against peasant activists and leaders perpetrated by State security forces.

On January 17, 2024, two peasant activists were gunned down in Negros Occidental by elements of the 62nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. According to reports reaching Karapatan, Dionisio Baloy, 67, a member of the Kaisahan sa Gamay’ng Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros (KAUGMAON-Guihulngan Chapter) and fellow farmer Bernard Torres Sr., who also works as a habal-habal driver and is a member of UNDOC/PISTON – Guihulngan Chapter, were dragged out of the house they were staying at Hacienda Gomez, Barangay Sag-ang, La Castellana, Negros Occidental by operating troops of the 62nd IBPA, interrogated and tortured before being shot.

To justify the cold-blooded killing of the two farmers, the 62nd IBPA later released a statement claiming that the Baloy and Torres were killed in a so-called armed encounter between the soldiers and the New People’s Army.

Baloy and Torres had both been red-tagged and harassed by the military in their communities in Guihulngan, Negros Oriental, forcing them and their families to transfer residence. Like many other victims of red-tagging and harassment, they ended up becoming victims of graver human rights violations.

These latest killings of peasant activists have prompted KARAPATAN to sound the alarm on two monitored incidents of harassment and terrorist-tagging against Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas chairperson Danilo “Ka Daning” Ramos. KMP reported that on January 3 and 15 this year, motorcycle-riding men were inquiring on the whereabouts and residence of Ramos in Malolos City. In one incident, one of the intelligence agents reportedly said: “Taga-saan ba si Danilo Ramos? Matagal na namin siyang hinahanap kasi terorista siya. (Where is Danilo Ramos? We have been looking for him because he is a terrorist.)

Ramos had also reported being subjected to surveillance last August 2023. These cases of harassment and terrorist-tagging pose a direct threat to the lives of Ka Daning, his family and other peasant leaders and members of the KMP and the progressive peasant movement.

Karapatan has documented that 59 out of the 87 victims of extrajudicial killings under the Marcos Jr. regime (or two-thirds) are peasants, many of them falsely accused of being NPA members or supporters of “communist terrorist groups” and killed in false encounters. Moreover, 65 of the 87 victims (or three-fourths) are from the counterinsurgency-battered regions of Eastern Visayas, Bicol and Western Visayas —regions singled out for more intensified military and police deployment and operations under Rodrigo Duterte’s Memorandum Order No. 32, which Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has not rescinded.

Karapatan calls for a stop to the brutal counter-insurgency war that has been marked by escalating attacks against the peasantry and rural communities from Duterte’s time to the present. Using a militarist approach to end the armed conflict in the countryside will only result in more human rights violations against the peasantry and will not resolve its deep-seated roots.