Peasant victims of Oplan Bantay Laya from Arroyo to Aquino government
Peasant human rights group Tanggol Magsasaka (Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights) and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) condemned to the highest degree the extra-judicial killing of at least 7 peasants within 75 days of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino’s presidency.  The latest was the massacre of 4 peasants in Mobo town, Masbate on September 7.

On July 9, exactly nine days after Aquino’s inaugural at the Quirino grandstand, 78-year-old peasant leader Pascual Guevarra was killed at his home in Laur, Nueva Ecija, located inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR).  Guevarra is a senior leader of Alyansa ng Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa sa 3,100 Ektarya ng FMMR (ALMANA 3,100) a local chapter of AMGL (KMP Central Luzon) and a member of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association (ARBA), a group of farmer-beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).  Part of his farm was also pierced through by the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) project.  FMMR is under the command of 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

The next series of peasant killings took place in Paquibato District, Davao City where peasants Julius Tamondes, 24, and Naldo Labrador, 39, were killed on August 12 and September 3, respectively.  At present, Davao City and some parts of Southern Mindanao region are heavily militarized primarily led by the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

The massacre in Masbate victimized peasants Vicente Flores, 41, Richard Oliva, 44, Melencio Monacelio, 45 and Jonathan Monacelio, 21, a student of Sta. Maria High School.  They were killed by elements of the 9th Infantry Battalion under the command of the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.  The military reported it as a legitimate encounter with members of the New People’s Army (NPA) but families said that they were just resting after an arduous hunting for wild boars.

“The Aquino government is no different to the Arroyo government, implementing same old fascist attack on peasants struggling for their rights to land.  This is the very actual measures under Arroyo’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya which is now being continued by Aquino, he now inherits Arroyo’s infamous title of human rights violator in the country,” said Antonio Flores, KMP Spokesperson and Tanggol Magsasaka Co-convenor.

The groups said that the killings of Tomandes and Labrador in Paquibato District, Davao City was primarily rooted on their struggle for land, primarily against mining and logging operations and eco-tourism projects.  To worsen abuses, the military is exploiting Lumad tribesmen, luring them with Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADT) and recruiting them to be part of the  para-military group Ata Tribal Association of Davao, Inc. (ATADI) which is integrated with the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) under the command of the 10th Infantry Division.  Labrador’s wife identified her husband’s killer as Roberto Repe, a member of the CAFGU and ATADI.

KMP and its regional chapter KMP – Southern Mindanao Region (KMP – SMR) said that the abuses actually perpetrated by Lumads against peasants are part of the handiwork of the military.  Farmers are cultivating the lands for more than 50 years but the military is enticing Lumads that they have ancestral claim, thus, using them in counter-insurgency operations.

“Same old story, same tactics used by the military to terrorize peasants struggling for their rights to land.  During the Arroyo regime, this resulted to 561 peasant victims of EJK, where 118 were KMP leaders, 129 peasants became victims of enforced disappearances.  Justice has yet to be served to the victims and now the Aquino government continues with such as horrific state-sponsored terrorism,” said Flores.

“Under Aquino’s watch, who blabber about ‘change’ and democracy, it is now 7 peasant victims of EJK, 2 of filing of trumped-up charges, Dario Tomada of Eastern Visayas and Eddie Cruz of Rizal,” summed-up Flores.

“Day by day, the Aquino government shows its true colors as anti-peasant, violator of peasants’ basic rights and anti-land reform.  He is no different to other presidents who implemented counter-insurgency programs that wreaked havoc to the peasantry and people,” Flores added.

The groups vowed to seek justice for latest victims of human rights abuses under the Aquino government and continued to call to junk Oplan Bantay Laya and its replacement guided by the US Counterinsurgency Guide.

“We call for justice to all victims of human rights abuses.  Aquino should prove that he is indeed for change, democracy and human rights by punishing the perpetrators and making an end to EJK and other forms of abuses to peasants,” Flores called. #

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