Farmers call for freedom of peasant political prisoners
The militant farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) and Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights) lambasted the Armed Forces of the Philippines denial of the series of extra-judicial killings victimizing peasants from different parts of the country.
“Who the hell could do such killing inside Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation when soldiers are conducting random checkpoints and jogging anywhere at the site? Who could kill Pascual Guevarra, an elderly who fought the military’s displacement and harassment efforts against peasants? Only the military could do such a heinous crime,” said Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson and Tanggol Magsasaka Co-convenor.
The groups are reacting to Col. Antonio Parlade’s statement, Army spokesman that the military is not involved with Pascual’s killing but a result of quarreling factions within FMMR, reported in various online news site.
“Parlade’s statement is a used-up excuse and a useless attempt to salvage the military’s ever-dwindling reputation. The Philippine military is already globally infamous as human rights violator, engineers of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and ‘arrest and detention’ as encoined by the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya,” said Flores.
The groups said that on October 25, elements of the Philippine Army 7th Infantry Division burned down 34 farmers houses in in Lot 28, Barangay San Isidro, Laur, where Guevarra’s residence and farm are located. The groups said that the military then led by Maj. Gen. Ralph Villanueva did not recognize the farmers’ Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) and ordered them to leave their farms. The farmers are members of Alyansa ng Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa sa 3,100 Ektarya ng FMMR (ALMANA 3,100) and Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association.
“Tatay Pascual’s killing is a counter-attack to farmers who are struggling for their rights to land. They were able to restraint the continuing harassment of the military by their series of dialogues with agrarian reform officials and their participation with the national peasant marches last year and on January this year. The military is trying to terrorize and silence the farmers with the objective to stop asserting their rights to land,” Flores said.
KMP and Tanggol Magsasaka said that Guevarra is the first peasant victim of EJK under the Aquino government and is an indicator that president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III had done nothing to stop it. During the Arroyo regime, 561 peasants became victims of EJK and 118 of them were KMP leaders.
“How can the military deny that they had no hand on EJK, when anywhere Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan base, peasant leaders and activist were systematically killed like Eddie Gumanoy of KASAMA – TK (KMP Southern Tagalog) on April 23, 2003 in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro,” said Flores.
KMP said that leaders such as Gumanoy, Renato Pacaide of KMP SOCSKSARGENDS, Dioniso Battad and Arturo Orpilla of DANGGAYAN – CV (KMP Cagayan Valley), Celso Pojas of FADC (KMP Davao City), Fermin Lorico of KAUGMAON (KMP Negros Oriental) became victims of extra-judicial killings under the Arroyo government. Most of them were killed during Maj. Gen. Palparan’s stint at their region.
In addition, Nilo Arado of PAMANGGAS – Panay (KMP Panay) was abducted on April 12, 2007 in Oton, Iloilo and Jonas Burgos of AMB (KMP Bulacan) on April 23 of the same year. About 129 peasants became victims of enforced disappearances during the Arroyo regime.
“Survivor victims said that they were apprehended by armed groups at areas heavily under military control, so how can these groups execute their crime with the military just around the corner? It is totally clear that they are involved,” Flores said.
The groups said that an indicator is the injustice for the victims or no one has yet to be arrested and punished. In addition, the Aquino government who claimed of “change” and “democracy” during last election is a big blunder to human rights as EJK was never prevented. To date, 7 peasants have become victims of EJK, 1 from Nueva Ecija, 2 from Davao City and 4 from Masbate and a former peasant leader from Eastern Visayas, Dario Tomada was accused of trumped-up charges. The groups said that these are also a continuing result of the extension of Oplan Bantay Laya.
“We would never tire of calling for justice for the victims of extra-judicial killings and human rights violations. The military could lie to their teeth again and again but they could not deny the reality of their involvement with more and more people learning of their fascist attack on peasants and the people,” said Flores.
The groups renewed their call for justice for human rights violations victims and immediate freedom of peasant political prisoners such as Tomada, Felicidad Caparal, Eddie Cruz and Antipolo 4 (Rizal), Talisay 3 (Batangas), Cadiz 4 and Guihulngan 2 (Negros), Buenavista 5 (Bohol), Emilia Marquez and the rest of Morong 43, and other political prisoners.
“Aquino is no icon of democracy and human rights, he is a total opposite of what his father died for, he is a total failure, a threat to democracy, human rights and land reform, an enemy of the Filipino peasantry,” Flores said. #