Continuing military atrocities not conducive for peace talks resumption — KMP

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas raised its concern on the unending peasant killings and militarization of peasant communities to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The two panels will take on a possible truce and a resumption of the peace talks that Duterte unilaterally terminated in November 2017, followed by the issuance of EO 360 and EO 374 and DOJ’s Fake Terror List targeting activists and critics.

“We hold the GRP, Duterte and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) highly-accountable for the unending peasant killings. Farmers should not be treated as mere collateral damages or casualties of the armed conflict. Rural folks endure daily torment and cannot live in peace with the AFP practically living in civilian communities,” says Antonio Flores, secretary general of KMP.

“The GRP should rein in the mercenary AFP that have been sowing terror and destruction in rural areas especially in peasant and indigenous communities. A resumption of the peace talks would be beneficial in addressing the country’s socio-economic problems. Any temporary truce or ceasefire of sort, however, would be disrespected and negated if the AFP, especially Philippine Army infantry battalions, remain encamped in peasant communities.”

The situation is almost the same all over the country — when AFP units cannot go after the NPA, they would easily turn to farmers whom they would accuse as NPA members or supporters,” the KMP leader said. “Majority of the farmers, Lumad and peasant leaders killed were tagged or accused as NPA members.”

Pull-out AFP troops from civilian communities

Farmers in the agricultural communities of Sitio San Isidro, Purok 4 in Tungkong Mangga, San Jose Del Monte City in Bulacan have launched a petition signing to seek the removal of the 80th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) encamped in community. The military arrived in the community on February 28, 2018 and have been conducting Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) operations under the command of a certain Sgt. Duenas. The farmers’ community is the target site of the intermodal depot and the last terminal of the multibillion train project MRT-7 by San Miguel Corporation.

In Batangas, the 1st IBPA of the Second Division of the Philippine Army is currently setting up camp near the protest camp-out of farmers and fisherfolks along the highway in Sitio Balakbakan, Barangay Laiya in San Juan town. The 1st IBPA is the same unit that came from Marawi. “Why deploy an anti-terror military unit in a civilian area? Farmers and fisherfolks maintain a protest camp because they have nowhere to go after their community was demolished in 2014 by real estate firm Laiya Development Corporation (LDC). In July last year, private security guards of LDC opened fired at the protesting farmer and fisherfolk families. Some 300 residents in the area were displaced after real estate developer Federico Campos converted the fishing community into a private beach and eco-tourism resort.

In Mindanao, Martial Law is still in place and the military are killing farmers and Lumad like chickens. “We have documented 127 peasant victims of political killings. The actual figures could even go up to almost 200 nationwide, and majority of the incidents occurred during Martial Law,” Flores said.

In Agusan del Norte, Jose Unahan, a Higaonon Lumad farmer was shot dead on June 6, 2018 at around 8pm in Sitio Tagbakon, Brgy. Culit, Nasipit town. Unahan is leading his tribe’s struggle against the entry of large-scale mining and other extractive industries in their ancestral land.

This week, 35 Lumad Higaonons families led by Datu Reynado Ayuma have evacuated from their community and fled to the capitol grounds after soldiers of the 58thInfantry Battalion of the Philippine Army occupied their homes and encamped at their tribal community in Sitio Camansi, Barangay Banglay, Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental.

Some 150 indigenous people left their community last May 26 due to intense militarization and have set up camp at Lagonglong town proper last May 29. The residents suffered threats, harassment and intimidation from the military who accused them of being NPA supporters. It is the community’s sixth forced evacuation since 2015.

“Of course, farmers would always want to achieve peace. Who doesn’t want to live in peace? But does Duterte know and realize the true meaning of peace?” Flores concluded.

Antonio Flores