DAVAO CITY – The militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan – Southern Mindanao (Bayan-SMR) warned the incoming Duterte administration of the perils of appointing a “notorious human rights violator” as head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, saying it would jeopardize efforts of addressing armed conflict.
Sheena Duazo, secretary general of Bayan-SMR, said the possible appointment of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya should be thought twice. Visaya, she said, is the current commander of the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) and “was responsible for the brutal Hacienda Luisita Massacre in 2004.”
Presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte said he is eyeing Visaya, who will be retiring in December this year, for the position of the AFP chief of staff.
“Visaya was the commander of the 69th IB, which was responsible for the brutal Hacienda Luisita Massacre in 2004,” Duazo claimed.
She described Visaya as a ‘protégé’ of Major Gen. Jovito Palparan, “whose stint as then commander of the 7th ID led to the formation of ‘Palparan battalions’, known for their great disregard of human rights and tagging of activists and community leaders as members of the underground armed groups.”
Duazo said after the deployment of the 69th Infantry Battalion (IB) in Paquibato District, this city, “the civilian population became the target of the (Army’s) operation.”
“This is the same 69th IB that strafed the house of Aida Seisa, secretary-general of KMP-SMR, in Paquibato District, resulting to the death of her three civilian companions,” Duazo said, adding that Seisa, along with other tribal leaders have repeatedly sat with Duterte in dialogues to discuss about their situation.
“Civilian structures were forcibly occupied, and many were illegally arrested and charged with trumped-up charges as members of the NPA,” Duazo added.
Human rights violations feared
Duazo said that while the three-star general no longer commands the 69th IB in their deployment in Southern Mindanao, “his background and association with Palparan should be cause for worry” for Duterte.
“The Palparan-model of counterinsurgency operations is embedded in the heart and soul of the likes of Lt. Gen. Visaya. With his appointment, horrendous human rights violations from the previous administrations may be committed by military forces,” Duazo warned.
Human rights group Karapatan also said Visaya’s stint “was marked by military encampment in urban poor communities in 2006-2007, in time for the 2007 elections.”
Visaya should be prosecuted, says Karapatan
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said Visaya was promoted by the Aquino administration despite his “stained human rights record”. Palabay said Visaya should even be prosecuted for the “crimes he committed” against the people.
“He was promoted as 4th Infantry Division commanding general, the unit responsible for killing and forcible evacuation of farmers and Lumad in Caraga and Northern Mindanao regions,” she said.
Meanwhile, Duazo said Duterte can stop the impunity by addressing the roots of the armed conflict, a commitment that Duterte has repeatedly voiced out during his speeches.
Duazo added, “peace talks is a more participative venue to address the conflict, and less costly than the bloated and bloody counter-insurgency program Bayanihan.” (davaotoday.com)