On the International Day of the Disappeared, the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) and Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights) urged president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino to surface victims of enforced disappearances such as peasant leader and activists Nilo Arado, Jonas Burgos, Ronald Intal and Manuel Merino. The activists were abducted and still missing perpetrated by believed to be members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) during the Arroyo administration. The group also said that their abductions were in line with the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) which is now being continued by the Aquino government.
“We demand Aquino to act on the surfacing of peasant leaders and activists and protect human rights in the country. If he could not protect the rights of his fellow countrymen, there is no way he could guarantee safety to foreign visitors such as those killed during the Manila hostage crisis on August 23,” Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson and Tanggol Magsasaka co-convenor said in a press statement.
“The culture of impunity lies within the government forces, thus, it is innate to use violence against helpless civilians, local or foreign. The Aquino government has failed to break this culture as extra-judicial killings and other rights abuses continue,” Flores said.
Tanggol Magsasaka said that Nilo Arado was the Secretary-General of PAMANGGAS – Panay (KMP Panay regional chapter) and Jonas Burgos was a trainor of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Bulacan (AMB, KMP Bulacan provincial chapter) when they were abducted.
Arado was abducted on April 12, 2007, about 9:30pm at Bgy. Cabanban, Oton town in Iloilo when a van plated FVF 463 blocked their path with armed men believed to be agents of the Philippine military. He is missing for 1,236 days to date.
On the same month, the BS Agriculture graduate Jonas Burgos was abducted on April 28, 2007 at a mall in Quezon City. He was forced to aboard a van with plate number TAB 194 which was consequently connected to the 56th Infantry Battalion camp in Bgy. San Mateo, Norzagaray, Bulacan. Burgos was able to scream “aktibista lang ako,” thus, many have witnessed his abduction. At present, he is missing for 1,220 days.
In addition, Ronald Intal, a peasant-youth leader in Hacienda Luisita was abducted on April 3, 2006 during the command of Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan on the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) in Tarlac. Witnesses said that Intal was brought by the military to Aqua Farm at Bgy. Balite, used to be a fishpond which was occupied by the military as a detachment. Intal’s family sought the help of Tarlac city vice mayor Teresita Cabal who confirmed that Intal was being held at NOLCOM and guaranteed his release upon the approval of Gen. Palparan. His father said that Gen. Palparan would not release his son as he was waiting for his confirmation of his appointment. Since then, Ronald Intal was never found.
Manuel Merino was the farmer who tried to help Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño when they were being abducted on June 26, 2006 in Hagonoy, Bulacan. Raymond Manalo, a farmer who was abducted in San Ildefonso, Bulacan on February 14, 2006, escaped with his brother and was able to report that they were held incommunicado in different military camps and learned they were brought to a detachment near shore in Zambales. He last saw Manuel Merino when Maj. Gen. Palparan arrived and heard Merino’s moaning and saw light from a burning fire.
KMP and Tanggol Magsasaka said that no member of the military has yet to be punished amidst the consistent testimony of a survivor. At present, the Aquino government has yet to act decisively against enforced disappearances, thus, rights abuses continue to victimize activists all over the country. The groups also noted that Aquino’s taking seat as president was not accompanied by an act protecting human rights such as the release of political prisoners. It is worsened by the extension of Oplan Bantay Laya, the very counter-insurgency program that transformed the country to a living hell to legal-democratic and unarmed activists and militants.
“The Aquino government showed no hope for human rights in the country. There was no change in state terrorism and fascism, extra-judicial killings, political persecutions and rights abuses continue. Aquino is no agent of human rights but of state violence against activists,” said Flores.
The group reported that extra-judicial killings under the Aquino government victimized Pascual Guevarra, the old farmer from Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija, who for decades are fighting for his rights to land. He was gunned down July 9 at his home. On July 22, Dario Tomada, a former leader of SAGUPA – SB (KMP Eastern Visayas) was arrested, tortured and accused of the “mass graves” in Leyte.
“We demand Aquino to act decisively, not to pamper the military and police who abuse the people. We are particularly calling for the surfacing of victims of enforced disappearances in the country and justice for the victims of rights abuses,” Flores called. #