Fr. SANTIAGO SALAS (Ka Sanny)
Spokesperson, NDFP Eastern Visayas Chapter
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Eastern Visayas strongly condemns the indiscrimate strafing in civilian communities in Lope de Vega on 28-29 September, as well as human rights violations in other parts of Northern Samar. We support the people’s demands to end Oplan Bayanihan and the militarization of Northern Samar and elsewhere in Eastern Visayas.
Village officials of Barangay Pagite, Lope de Vega, have trooped to the local government and the media to complain of military operations that put civilians in danger. Last 22-29 September, the 34th Infantry Battalion (Philippine Army) launched search-and-destroy operations in the barangay’s subvillages (sitio) of New Sumuroy and Ginbauyan, without the knowledge of the village council. The village officials point out this violates the 2008 memorandum of agreement between officials of Lope de Vega’s villages and the military, that the civilian officials must be informed of any military operation so that civilian lives would not be put at risk.
On 28 Sept, government soldiers indiscriminately strafed allegedly against the New People’s Army (NPA), but forcing the majority of residents in the two subvillages to evacuate for safety to the village center. The following day, 29 Sept, two attack helicopters went on aerial strafing of the environs of New Sumuroy, convincing those who remained behind to flee for their lives.
The soldiers only showed themselves in the village on 30 Sept. and left on 2 Oct. Meanwhile, the civilian residents of Barangay Pagite have been unable to return to their homes because of fear and uncertainty over reckless military operations. Children have been left in shock after their traumatic experiences. Even though it is already the harvest season, the ricefields are rotting because the barrio folk are too afraid to venture out. The people are forced to take refuge in the village center and rely on relief assistance from the local government and humanitarian groups.
The climate of impunity caused by Aquino government forces reigns in other parts of Northern Samar. Only this September, about 100 village officials and leaders of the peasant organization Alyansa han mga Parag-uma Kontra Kakablasan ha Las Navas (APKLAS or Peasant Alliance Against Poverty in Las Navas) petitioned against “peace and development team” (PDT) operations by the military. These PDT operations are in reality psywar, intelligence and combat operations that violate human rights and ruin the livelihood of the peasantry. In fact, suspected military elements gunned down Las Navas town councilor Nelson Mercader last 05 August on the mere accusation he supported the NPA.
There are earlier incidents of human rights violations. There is the harassment and threats by the 34th Infantry Battalion against Raul Durin, a village treasurer in Barangay Imelda, Las Navas, who is accused of supporting the NPA. The 803rd Civil-Military Operations Company also monitors the movement of civilians and threatens reprisals against village residents in Barangay Osang, Catubig, if any soldier were to suffer harm by the NPA. Because of this, the people are reluctant to work in their farms out of fear.
The NDFP-EV condemns the 8th Infantry Division’s wanton violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. These violations are contrary to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law between the NDFP and the Philippine government. The Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan commits rights violations on a wide scale. The seriousness of Benigno Aquino III for a just and lasting peace is already under question. It is only a matter of time that the people will rise up and oust his corrupt, unjust, pro-imperialist and fascist regime.