Rights, IHL violations vs civilians continue in Masbate, Ilocos Sur-Abra border

Civilians are bearing the brunt of intensified militarization in the countryside and increasingly being victimized by the violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) that mark counter-insurgency operations under the Marcos Jr. regime.

In Sitio Tadloy, Barangay Luna, Placer, Masbate, troopers under the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army summarily killed peasant Jimmy Pautan, at 5 a.m. of April 11. In what has become a gruesome pattern, the 903rd Brigade later falsely claimed in its Facebook post that Pautan was an NPA member killed in a supposed encounter. The victim’s family has vehemently denied the military’s accusations. Pautan is the 28th victim of extrajudicial killing in Masbate under the current regime.

At the Abra-Ilocos Sur border, civilians have been victimized thrice over—first, by the drought caused by El Niño; second, by the indiscriminate aerial attacks that disrupted farming and other economic activities; and again, by police and military interference in a relief operation led by church and human rights groups.

A report by the Ilocos Region Ecumenical Council (IREC) detailed the harassment that members of the relief mission experienced at the hands of the Ilocos Sur Provincial Police Office (ISPPO), who prevented the mission from proceeding to Barangay Baballasioan, Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur, one of the affected communities. This, despite their having permission from the Sta. Maria local government and barangay to enter and distribute relief. The team was thus compelled to leave the relief goods at the Sta. Maria municipal hall. It was a clear example of de facto martial law.

Not content with such interference, the police troopers further harassed the team by taking pictures of them and their identification cards and tailing them even after the mission.

The team which distributed relief goods to Nagcanasan, Pilar, Abra was allowed to proceed to the community, but not before the Pilar PNP profiled them and insisted on escorting them to the community. The team had to hurdle three police checkpoints. At the community, the team was further forced by the PNP to sign three unlabelled “logbooks.”

During distribution of relief goods, the Pilar PNP, some of them in full batllegear and some in plainclothes,monitored interviews, including psychosocial debriefing for children traumatized by the bombings, making participants and facilitators uncomfortable. The Pilar PNP also took pictures of residents and the team without the latter’s consent.

The police forces’ disruption of the relief mission is a blatant violation of International Humanitarian Law, which states that “parties to the conflict must allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need.”

Karapatan demands a stop to the militarization of vast areas in the countryside, as the numerous human rights violations and violations of International Humanitarian Law that inevitably result are wreaking havoc on the basic rights and welfare of civilians.