Pull-out the 73rd IBPA from Sarangani Province and stop human rights violations among the Blaan tribe

Dear friends,
 
Please join us in our call for the immediate pull-out of the 73rd IB-PA operating in Sarangani Province that has victimized the Blaan indigenous group in 10 villages in Malapatan, Sarangani province. The military operation is part of the Aquino government’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.
 
 
 
Almost 150 men from the 73rd IB-PA conducted military operations on March 27 until April 10, 2015 affecting some 358 families or 1,800 individuals who became victims of abuses and human rights violations. Violations such as aerial bombing, torture, economic blockage, destruction of property, encampment in residential areas, indiscriminate firing, and illegal searches were documented during a fact-finding mission held on April 27-29, 2015.
 
The military actions against civilians followed when members of the 73rd IB-PA failed to pursue members of the New People’s Army they had an encounter with.  Unable to find the NPA, the AFP has resorted to retaliatory violence victimizing the civilian population.
 
The unit is under the 10th “Agila” Division under the command of Gen. Eduardo Año, a protegḗ of retired General Jovito “The Butcher” Palparan. The members of the 23rd IB-PA temporarily stopped its combat operation but have not left the communities, opting to stay in neighboring villages.
 
Below are some of the documented cases:
 
Bombing and forcible entry in civilian homes
 
On March 30, at around 6:00 a.m., after an encounter with members of the New People’s Army, the soldiers of the 73rd IB-PA forcibly entered the homes of civilians for refuge. At about 1:00 p.m., the soldiers started firing indiscriminately even as they were in a populated area.
 
At around 4:00 p.m., eight bombs were dropped on a nearby village, in a populated area, and soldiers fired machine guns four times. Crops, animals, and the community’s source of water were destroyed by the bombing.
 
Food blockade
Starting on April 5, the military enforced food blockade in the 10 villages they were in. The residents were only allowed to buy less than a kilo of rice daily. If they exceeded the allowed quantity, the residents were accused of supplying food to the NPA.
 
Torture
On the first week of April, three Blaan men were tortured when soldiers arrived at Sitio Kabaklod, Bgy. Upper Suyan, Malapatan municipality.
 
On April 4, 2015, around 6 p.m., Masulong Ambat and his brother Jimmy Ambat went to Sitio Buenavista, Brgy. Pag-asa, Alabel, Sarangani Province to buy 25 kilos of rice. On their way back, at Sitio Maybaka, Brgy. Upper Suyan, 21 elements of 73rd IB-PA led by Lt. Jordan and Cpl. Peter Maquiling prevented them to pass through. The soldiers confiscated the 25 kilos rice, two packs of cigarettes, and two packs of instant noodles on accusation that the goods were supplies of the New People’s Army, despite Masulong’s insistence that the goods were for their sari-sari store.
 
The soldiers interrogated Jimmy and Masulong for nine hours, on to the following day, April 5. They asked for the whereabouts of the New People’s Army. Desperate to squeeze out information, the soldiers punched and pointed their knife and rifle at Jimmy and Masulong; walked on Jimmy’s legs down to his feet. They spilled the 25 kilos of rice on the ground and tore down Masulong’s cedula and barangay registration. After the interrogation, the soldiers went with Jimmy and Masulong to Sitio Kabaklod to check if indeed they have a small store. Upon seeing the store, the soldiers only said, “We thought the rice was for the NPA’s supply”.
 
Now at Sitio Kabaklod, Cpl. Peter Maquiling and eight of his men went to Rexan Tagi’s house. The soldiers woke up Tagi and told him to boil water for their coffee. After having coffee, a soldier known as “PL” ordered Tagi to go out of the house for a talk. The talk turned out to be an interrogation about the NPA. Unable to get any information, the soldiers then insisted Tagi was hiding a carbine. As Tagi denied the accusation, soldiers alternately punched him and offered reward money and cellphone if he turns in the gun. Irked by Tagi’s silence, the soldiers searched the house and upturned the family’s belongings, stepping on the clothes, sleeping mat. The soldiers even stepped on the feet of Tagi’s father, Manda, who was in bed because of sickness. The soldiers found no gun but opted to stay at Rexan’s house up until 10 p.m.
 
While this was happening, a certain “Gober”, said to be Commanding Officer of the Reconnaissance Company of the 73rd IB-PA, two soldiers named Ricky Sotal and Toto Sukal, and one unnamed member of the PNP-Malapatan went to the house of Ruben Wating. Soldiers accused Wating to be among the NPA members they encountered three days before. When Wating disputed their claim, the soldiers forced him to drink two gallons of “tuba” or coconut wine with them.  At 9 p.m., after they finished the wine, they brought Wating to a nearby creek where he was tortured—kicked in the neck; clipped the left thumbnail with pliers while another punched the right side of Ruben’s limb. Desperate, a soldier pulled a .45 cal. and aimed at Ruben’s forehead. Ruben was ordered to drop to the ground and when he did, the soldiers repeatedly stepped on Ruben’s legs on to his back. Later, they instructed to stand up and run. Ruben refused to follow for fear that soldiers would shoot him.
 
The soldiers then brought Ruben to a neighbor’s house where he was again punched; his hands smashed with a bamboo stick. After some time, the soldiers allowed Wating to go home but even before he could leave, one of the soldiers hit his back with a belt. That night, six soldiers slept over at Ruben’s house.
 
On April 7, 2015, the soldiers of 73rd IB insisted to bring Ruben with them for him to surrender. Ruben refused to go with them for they don’t have any warrant of arrest to show and that he did nothing wrong. The soldiers simply left.
 
We call on friends and human rights advocates to send letters of concern calling for:
1.       The immediate pull-out of the 73rd IB-PA from the civilian communities.

2.       Justice to all victims of human rights violations and indemnification of victims of human rights violations especially those whose properties and sources of livelihood were destroyed during military operation.

3.       Prosecution of perpetrators of torture and other human rights violations during the said AFP operations.

4.       The withdrawal of Oplan Bayanihan, the Philippine government’s counterinsurgency program that victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians.

5.       The PH government and its state security forces to stop labelling and targeting civilians as “members of the NPA” and “enemies of the state.”

6.       The Philippine Government to observe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory to.

You may send your communications to the following agencies through mail, e-mail or fax:
 
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

 

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.comdnd.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.phlmdelima.doj@gmail.comlmdelima.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.comlorettann@gmail.com