“We are becoming tired of this government’s empty promises, publicity stints and lies. As the AFP heralds Oplan Bayanihan’s adherence to human rights, six barangay officials and two children from Bgy. Hinagunuyan , Catubig, Samar were declared as NPA surrenderees after they were abducted. The six, and the two children were taken, purportedly for questioning, by elements of the 34th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) in Northern Samar,” declared Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chairperson of Karapatan.
Reports coming from Katungod-Sinirangang Bisayas, a member of Karapatan based in Eastern Visayas, stated that on January 28, 2012, barangay officials and members of the Lupong Tagapamayapa (barangay peace and order council) were arrested and brought to the headquarters of the 34th IBPA in the Municipality of Palapag, Northern Samar. The villagers believed that the act was in retaliation for the village’s hosting of a fact-finding mission conducted by the Katungod-SB last January 12-15, 2012.
“The military reacted because the said fact-finding mission ascertained that the soldiers were responsible for the killing of Jovito Pajanustan, a farmer from Bgy. Osang, Catubig, Northern Samar. Pajanustan was tortured before he was killed last November 24, 2011. When discovered, Pajanustan’s body bore signs of torture – his head was still covered with cellophane and his hands were tied,” added Hilao-Enriquez.
Prior to the arrest of the barangay officials, the military coerced them to sign an affidavit to free the military from any accountability to Pajanustan’s killing. His killing was among the 33 other human rights violations by the military that were documented by the fact-finding mission. The violations range from threat, harassment and intimidation; violation on the rights of the child; violation on the use of public buildings e.g., health centers, day care centers and chapels; and houses of civilians that were used as military camps.
“We demand the release of the barangay officials from Hinagunuyan and the pullout of military troops in these areas. We condemn the continuing military presence in the communities that endangers the civilian population. As in the past, the military turn their guns against the civilians when they fail to pursue the New People’s Army (NPA),” said Hilao-Enriquez.
Hilao-Enriquez points to Oplan Bayanihan, the government’s current counter-insurgency program, just like the vicious Oplan Bantay Laya of GMA, for the unending impunity in the country. “ Under these counter-insurgency programs, people’s livelihood are dislocated and lives are at stake, or worse, lost. The AFP continues to hide behind its so-called human rights program but the reality shows otherwise. The AFP may employ deceptive tactics and slogans, but it can no longer deny the violations they commit against the people to silence them. History has shown that the people themselves won’t allow these to go on. We urge the Aquino government to learn the lessons of history rather than repeating the errors of the past,” concluded Hilao-Enriquez. ###