DAVAO CITY, Philippines — An activist farmer leader was reportedly harassed and interrogated by armed men suspected to be military agents in his residence in Mandug on Monday evening, prompting him to leave with his family.
Pedro Arnado, chairperson of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Southern Mindanao, said the incident happened around 7 pm just as he arrived at his home.
Arnado recounted that he saw armed men arrived from his neighbor’s house and stayed at his house for more than an hour, and interrogated him about where he stored firearms and explosives.
He was with his wife and a six-year old grandchild when the interrogation happened.
Arnado said his wife asked the armed men to identify themselves and why they are in the house. “But they refused to answer,” he said.
When Arnado stood firm in denying their accusation, the armed men warned they will return next time with an intelligence asset to prove their allegations.
After this, Arnado and his family left and sought temporary refuge for their safety.
Arnado arrived at his home that day from a meeting with a congressman regarding problems with agrarian reform beneficiaries in Davao del Norte.
He said the harassment “is part of the military’s continued campaign to harass and silence farmers’ groups, especially its leaders, who struggle to reclaim their lands from multi-national corporations and landlords.”
In recent months, farmers linked to progressive groups like KMP have been assassinated by motorcycle-riding men in the provinces such as in Bukidnon.
Arnado has been subjected to trumped up charges, surveillance and red-tagging propaganda for his role in KMP and also as Vice Chairperson for Mindanao of AnakPawis Party-list.
Human rights group Karapatan Southern Mindanao noted this incident has the same narrative of other cases in Davao Region,
“We have seen farmers intimidated to surrender as rebels, and often are filed with trumped up charges that are non-bailable such as illegal possession of firearms and explosives,” said Karapatan Southern Mindanao secretary general Jay Apiag.
The group believed that this part of the Duterte government’s counter-insurgency program, Oplan Kapanatagan, said to target progressive groups and activists “to hamper them from registering their demands, joining democratic mobilizations.”
“This is a desperate move by the government, in which instead of addressing their demand, they are imposing fascism against the people,” Apaig said. (davaotoday.com)