Military rampage in Cagayan Valley results in rights violations

“In Cagayan Valley and in many other parts of the country, the military is taking its offensive against peasant and indigenous communities a notch higher.  Military rule readily creates an environment for repression of people’s rights, as illustrated in reported violations in Cagayan Valley. It is the soldiers’ unwanted presence and activities that endanger residents and cause fear and insecurity in communities,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

On the evening of February 10, 2018, the 17th Infantry Battalion – Philippine Army took custody of five farmers who were subjected to interrogation and harassment. Farmers Rafael Guimay, Nelson Guimay, Nani Maglapay, Matias Asco, and Mario Garon were forcibly brought to the 17th IBPA headquarters in Alcala, Cagayan. The said military unit conducted a census in the entire Zinundungan Valley and are calling people for “monitoring” and “clearing of names”. All five farmers are known residents of the area, with four of them having been elected to barangay positions in the past. They are members of the Malaueg Farmers Association.

Karapatan also received reports of violations under the international humanitarian law (IHL). Lolito Rasa, 58, and Victorino Tesorio, 70, both retired members of the New People’s Army and considered under IHL as hors de combat, were tortured and killed on January 24, 2018. The Philippine National Police, according to Palabay, has resorted to its “typical tactic of blatantly lying even when actual conditions and findings on the bodies dispute this deliberate misinformation. The PNP had the gall to claim that Rasa and Tesorio – both sickly and elderly – resisted arrest, and even framed the entire incident as an encounter.”

Initial investigation by Karapatan Cagayan Valley, however, revealed that Tesorio was shot and hit in his right eye. His fingers were broken, his fingernails were removed – signs that the victim was subjected to torture before he was shot. Rasa, on the other hand, was shot on the left side of his head, and there are indications that he was shot at close range. Reports from neighbors also disputed the PNP’s claim that an encounter ensured as residents attested there was no exchange in gunfire.

“The government and its forces are not only the number one violators of human rights; they are also the primary transgressors of laws and agreements of which they are a party to. Not only has the state forces disregarded the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), among other IHL instruments, they have also knowingly breached provisions protecting persons from cruel, degrading, inhuman treatment as stated in the Convention Against Torture and the Anti-Torture Law,” explained Palabay.

“We condemn the ongoing militarization of rural communities, and the conduct of military operations that specifically target civilians and residents involved in local peasant and indigenous organizations. Karapatan also emphasizes that the perpetrators that have violated the IHL and inflicted torture on victims should be immediately held accountable. We call out the Duterte regime for his policies, foremost his counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, that have trained the state’s guns towards peasant and indigenous communities,” Palabay concluded.