DAVAO CITY – A farmers’ organizations said they are worried about the successive kilings, attempts and threats on the lives of its members after the killing of another farmer today.

“First there is the Paquibato massacre, then an attempt to the leader of the Compostela Farmers Association and now the kiling of Ricky Basig,” said Lito Lao, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Southern Mindanao.

Lao said the farmers are also human rights defenders in their communities “who report about  government inadequacies and abuses.”

Three farmers were killed in an alleged massacre in Barangay Paradise Embac, Paquibato District, Davao City last Sunday by members of the Army’s 69th Infantry Battalion (IB).

The three were in the house of woman peasant-leader Aida Seisa who, according to human rights group Karapatan, have numerously reported threats against her life.

The Army said the three were members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and that they were serving a warrant of arrest for rebel leaders who they said are inside the house of Seisa.

However, the mother of Seisa who survived the incident said in a City Council committee hearing that the men are farmers and that they have no firearms inside the house.

The Army who earlier said they were open to the investigation of the Council to answer the allegations were not present during the said committee hearing.

On Sunday, the house of farmer-leader Bello Tindasan was allegedly strafed by Army men from a nearby detachment.

Tindasan has accused the Army adding that it has been favoring the entry of a mining company in their areas.

Tindasan and CFA members put up a barricade to stop the exploration operations of the Agusan Petroleum and Minerals Corporation (Agpet).

Meanwhile, Ricky Basig was shot dead Thursday while sitting in the veranda of his house in Barangay Mahan-Ub, Baganga, Davao Oriental.

Karapatan in a text message on Friday said Basig, a survivor of typhoon Pablo and purok (village) leader, was “shot to death by elements of the 67th IB at around 6 pm.”

However, Army commander Lt. Col. Michael Banua said the NPAs are trying to recruit Basig who is “a former NPA member”.

“Ricky Basig was a former NPA member and he is supporting our peace and development efforts. It is the work of the NPA killing their former companion, not us,” Banua said.

But Karapatan said  Basig “reported three instances where he had been harassed by the 67th IB and was also asked to serve as guide for the said military unit.”

Karapatan said that “a certain Gatchalian from the (Army) summoned Basig, and vilified him as a member of the NPA.”

Karapatan said that Basig even participated in the dialogue with barangay officials after a fact-finding mission in May to report the atrocities of the military in their area.

“He was the purok leader of Sitio Kaputian and a lumad from the Mandaya tribe,” said the group.

Karapatan said Basig is the 50th victim of extrajudicial killings in Southern Mindanao under the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino.

Hanimay Suazo, spokesperson of Karapatan Southern Mindanao, said the victims of extrajudicial killings have a pattern of “surveillance, harassment or threats and eventually killed.”

Suazo said they publicize threats against the victims “as they are very real and must be responded to by government officials and concerned organizations and individuals.”

Lao said that “targeting farmers is now an established conduct by the Army in implementing their oplan (operation plan) Bayanihan.”

“The government has neglected us and instead favored landlords and foreign mining companies and plantations. If we, especially local leaders, speak against it, we are threatened and killed,” said Lao. (davaotoday.com)

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