(Updated) Urgent Call to Stop AFP's Military Operations in Abra

September 23, 2014

We call on all peace and human rights advocates--individuals, institutions, the Church, people’s organizations, the academe and other groups to support the call of the people of Lacub, Abra in the Cordillera Region, Philippines, for the immediate cessation of the military operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) therein and nearby communities.

 

  • EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING OF ENGINEER FIDELA SALVADOR
  • AFP’S GRAVE COERCION and USE OF CIVILIANS AS HUMAN SHIELDS AND GUIDES IN THE CONDUCT OF THE MILITARY OPERATIONS, EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING OF LACUB RESIDENT NOEL VISTE
  • THREAT, COERCION AND ILLEGAL DETENTION. On the morning of September 3 at about 8:30 am, Norberto Borgonia, a resident of Brgy. Guinguinabang was looking for his carabao when he was apprehended by a unit of the AFP at Mt. Kiboot. He was detained, accused and forced to admit that he was a member of the NPA. He was released at about 6:30 pm when his villagemates were able to locate and vouch for him.
  • INDISCRIMINATE FIRING AND SERIOUS DISRUPTION OF LIFE IN THE COMMUNITY.   On Sept 5 between 9:00-10:00 pm Army personnel stationed at Sitio. Bantugo, Poblacion, Lacub belonging to 41st IBPA indiscriminately fired their weapons in the direction of Talampac Proper and Pacoc, Talampac. An M203 shell landed in Bobon, a farming area, and the direction of the bullets was towards the houses.  This resulted in the following:    
    • 3 farmers manning the irrigation were forced to sleep in the fields for fear of being strafed;
    • families in Sitio Pacoc evacuated  from their houses and stayed with their neighbors for the night; and
    • the suspension of classes in Bantugo Elementary and High School and Our Lady of Guadalupe High School on September 5 and 8.
  • RESTRICTION OF MOVEMENT IN THE COMMUNITY. Due to fear and to protect the residents from the military operation, Brgys. Talampak, Poblacion and Guinguinabang were forced to impose a curfew from 9:00 pm to 6:00 am. Small-scale miners stopped operating their mines since Sept 4 up to this reporting.
  • REINFORCEMENT OF MORE AFP TROOPS IN THE COMMUNITY AND THEIR CONTINUING MILITARY ENCAMPMENT ENDANGERING CIVILIANS. Despite two community petitions against the detachment in Sitio Bantugo, the 41st IBPA continues to maintain their detachment near the Bantugo Elementary and High School. The recent indiscriminate firing drove the residents of Talampak to come up with an agreement not to let their children attend school in Bantugo unless the detachment is removed.

 

 

RECOMMENDED ACTIONS:

 

  1. To immediately stop AFP's operations in Lacub, Abra to ensure the protection of civilians from the AFP
  2. Immediate pull out of the 41st IBPA and other AFP units from Lacub, Abra to ensure the impartial and thorough investigation of the human rights and international humanitarian law violations
  3. Justice for Engr. Fidela Salvador
  4. Justice for Noel Viste and the other victims of human rights violations of the 41st Infantry Battalion in Abra
  5. Prosecution of the perpetrators of this incident and ensure that accountability is demanded in full from the 41st IB, the 5th Infantry Division and the Northern Luzon Command of the AFP ensuring command responsibility
  6. Withdraw  Oplan Bayanihan, the Philippine government’s counterinsurgency program, that victimizes civilians.
  7. Observe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the major Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law instruments that it is a party and signatory to including the Comprehensive Agreement to the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL)
  8. Resume the Peace Talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)

 

Since August, a number of human rights and international humanitarian law violations perpetrated by the AFP have been reported in a Northern Luzon Command-led military operation in  Lacub, Abra participated in mainly by the 41st Infantry Battalion.  Two civilians became victims of extrajudicial killings.  Seven members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed in the AFP combat operations.  The state of the bodies of civilians and NPAs killed by the AFP, as observed during the retrieval, bore signs and strong indications of probable torture and desecration of remains.  There is a probability as well that rules of engagement were violated, that there could have been excessive use of force and that even if the members of the NPA had no more capacity to fight back, they were still slain or ‘no quarter’ was given during the conduct of the AFP military operations.  

As the AFP operations are ongoing in the area and there are still violations being reported, there is a need to provide support to the affected communities.  Agricultural production has been limited and small-scale mining activities have been suspended seriously affecting the livelihood and food source of the people.  Classes in elementary and high school have been suspended twice.  There is also an urgent need to conduct a thorough investigation of human rights and international humanitarian law violations to be able to pursue accountability and justice.

A fact finding mission conducted last September 8-9, documented the following violations:

Engr. Salvador, 50 years old, and a mother of three children is a consultant of the Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services Inc. (CorDisRDS) and the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera (CDPC).  She was on a monitoring visit for various socio-economic projects implemented by CorDiSRDS  and CDPC in Lacub, Abra when she was killed by the AFP in their operations.  On September 6, Engr. Salvador’s body along with the dead body of another civilian, Lacub resident Noel Viste, was airlifted by the AFP from their Bantugo military camp in Lacub to the Barbarit, Lagangilang, military camp.  Attendants of the Pineda Funeral Homes fetched and brought them to the Pineda Funeral Homes in Bangued where her body was identified by the staff of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) on the evening of September 6.

The autopsy report conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation cites that she suffered from 9 gunshot wounds, multiple contusions and lacerations and a head injury caused by a blunt object.  The report states that the cause of her death are: “hypovolemic shock secondary to gunshot wounds and the blunt traumatic injury to the head (contributory)”.

Elements of the 41st IBPA under 2Lt. Jose Mari Landicho coerced 24 civilians from Brgys. Poblacion and Bakag to be human shields on September 5, 2014.  The 24 civilians were retrieving the dead when the AFP unit accosted them.  They were coerced to walk in line between soldiers for almost an hour.  Noel Viste of Poblacion, was among the 24, coerced by the AFP that night to be a civilian guide.  On September 6, he was found dead. 

From the same incident, they coerced Nicasio Asbucan to act as guide and detained him from September 5-7 .  Asbucan was only surfaced and turned-over to Chief of Police of Lacub on the noon of September 7.   He manifests symptoms of acute stress disorder (ASD).  The AFP attempted to coerce him to name Jay-ar Balaoag, Brgy. Capt. Of Lan-ag, Lacub as the NPA who fired and killed Noel Viste. 

*The indigenous peoples of the Cordillera regard the retrieval of the dead in their community and turning them over to their families for decent burial as a sacred obligation.   

Support the calls for the following:

Issue statements/letters of indignation on the violations and to call for the following:

Call on the Philippine government to:

 

You may send your communications to:

H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III

President of the Republic

Malacañang Palace,

JP Laurel St., San Miguel

Manila Philippines

Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80

Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968

E-mail: op@president.gov.ph


Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)

7th Floor Agustin Building I

Emerald Avenue

Pasig City 1605

Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066

Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216

stqd.papp@opapp.gov.ph


Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin

Secretary, Department of National Defense

Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,

E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City

Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600

Fax:+63(2) 982-5600

Email: osnd@philonline.com, dnd.opla@gmail.com


Atty. Leila De Lima

Secretary, Department of Justice

Padre Faura St., Manila

Direct Line 521-1908

Trunkline 523-84-81 loc.211/214

Fax: (+632) 523-9548

Email: lmdelima@doj.gov.ph, lmdelima.doj@gmail.com, lmdelima.doj2@gmail.com


Hon. Loretta Ann P. Rosales

Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights

SAAC Bldg., UP Complex

Commonwealth Avenue

Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines

Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188

Fax: (+632) 929 0102

Email: chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com, lorettann@gmail.com

 

Rep. Guillermo Romarate Jr.

Chair, Committee on Human Rights

House of Representatives

3/F Ramon V. Mitra Building, House of Representatives, Quezon City

Telephone No. (+63 2) 931-5001 Local 7157; Telefax, 932-4803

 

Rep. Nancy Catamco

Chair, National Cultural Communities Committee

House of Representatives

3/F Annex Bldg., House of Representaitves, Quezon City

Telephone No. (+63 2) 932-3909

 

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, and coordinate with us for the support to the communities and families afected through our address below:

 

Cordillera Human Rights Alliance

55 Ferguson Road, Baguio City, Philippines 2600

chra.karapatan [at] gmail.com

and

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