By Fr. SANTIAGO SALAS (Ka Sanny)
Spokesperson, NDFP Eastern Visayas Chapter
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in Eastern Visayas today demanded the release of civilians illegally arrested by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as well as the ending of militarization in Basey, Samar and other parts of the region.
“We condemn the illegal arrest and detention by AFP troops of Elpidio Romangca and Artemio Estueta, both civilian residents of Barangay (village) Mabini, Basey, Samar,” said Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas, NDFP-EV spokesperson.
“We call for their immediate release based on the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed by the NDFP and the Government of the Philippines. In the spirit of moving the peace process forward, we demand that the Aquino regime respect the CARHRIHL and end militarization in Basey and elsewhere in the region.
“Despite being a calamity area whose residents are still struggling to recover after having been struck by supertyphoon Yolanda and three successive typhoons, Brgy. Mabini is now being subjected to the Aquino government’s oppressive militarization. The military imposes a curfew and forces the residents to comply with a logbook system hence restricting their movements, sowing fear among the peasants who are now afraid to go to their farms. Thus the residents suffer even more in addition to the effects of successive typhoons, and hunger is now widespread.
Fr. Salas said that the troopers from the 8th Infantry Division (8th ID) of the Philippine Army arrested Romangca during their combat operations under the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan.
“Elpidio Romangca is a former member of the New People’s Army who had returned to civilian life. But the military kept harassing him, despite his being handicapped (blind in one eye from a war wound) and having returned to peacefully tilling the land to look after his family. In fact, the military attempted to summarily execute Romangca in 2007, but he escaped and went into hiding. Another evidence that he has returned to civilian life is that he is a recipient of aid from the International Committee of the Red Cross as a survivor of supertyphoon Yolanda. Despite his efforts at a peaceful life, he was pursued and wounded by soldiers from the 87th Infantry Battalion on 17 November 2014 in Sitio Bagti, Mabini, Basey. He was brought to Manila for treatment and remains under military detention.
“Artemio Estueta is 68 years old and was arrested along with his wife by soldiers in Sitio Burabod, Mabini, Basey on 31 January 2014. Despite his advanced age, three truckloads of soldiers arrived and surrounded his house to arrest him. Estueta is a community leader who spoke out against the Aquino government’s criminal negligence of supertyphoon Yolanda survivors. He is also an advocate of genuine agrarian reform and critical of the Aquino government’s failure to implement this.”
The NDFP-EV spokesperson expressed concerns the military will slap Romangca and Estueta with fabricated criminal charges to keep them in prison.
“We are aware of the Aquino government’s propensity to criminalize political offenders. Thus we urge that the rights of Romangca and Estueta as civilians be respected. Romangca and the Estueta couple deserve to be released on humanitarian grounds because of their infirmities. All political prisoners must be released in accordance with the CARHRIHL and to move the peace process forward. We demand an end to the militarization of Basey and other parts of the region, which is still recovering from recent calamities and give way instead to genuine rehabilitation.”