DAVAO CITY – Leaders of Compostela Farmers Association (CFA) trooped to the Commission on Human Rights Region XI office here on Monday morning to file their complaints against members of the Army who were “harassing” them.
Isabello Tindasan, chairperson of Compostela Farmers Association said members of the 66th Infantry Battalion have threatened and harassed them.
“Ania kami karon dinhi sa CHR aron ipatin-aw kung unsa na ang kahimtang ngadto sa among kaumahan ug komunidad sa ginahimong pagpanghasi sa mga sundalo ubos 66th IB,” Tindasan said.
Last June 22, Tindasan’s house in Compostela was fired upon by the unidentified gunmen believed to be 66th IB members. On November 22, Tindasan’s son, Noel, who works as a small scale miner in Compostela, was shot by unidentified gunmen near their house in Barangay Ngan, Compostela.
The group reported 15 cases of human rights violations committed by the Army from June to November last year.
Tindasan said most of the cases happened in communities which were affected by the entry of the Agusan Petroleum and Minerals Corporation (AgPet), a subsidiary of San Miguel Corporation, which is owned by President Benigno Aquino III’s uncle and businessman Eduardo Cojuangco.
Record from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau shows that Agpet was granted two exploration permits in Compostela town, to cover the villages of Nursery, Bango, Pulang Lupa, Mambusao and Kantigbaw, all located in Barangay Ngan.
The company’s permits cover one area in Compostela spanning 9,999.53 hectares, while the other area spans the boundary of Compostela and New Bataan towns with a total of 2,416.91 hectares. The area also covers Tindasan’s farms which is around five hectares.
Both permits were approved in April 18, 2012 and supposedly have expired last April 18 of 2013 but were extended to July 2016.
The farmers believed that their stance against the entry of AgPet is the reason why they are being targeted by the Army.
Arnel Pasic, a local peasant leader in Compostela was tagged as a New People’s Army rebel by an Army soldier he only identified as Lt. Garidan.
“Sa wala pa misulod ang AgPet malinawon kaming nanginabuhi sa among mga kaumahan, apan adtong nisulod ang AgPet nga among gibabagan diha na pud nisulod ang 66th IB nga nagtukod ug mga detatsment sa mga komunidad ug gapanghasi sa amo arun kami mapugos nga pasudlon ang AgPet. Kapila na ko ka beses gibalik-balikan ni Lt. Garidan sa 66 ( 66th IB sa AFP) nga ako daw rebelde ug dapat moundang na sa pagbabag sa AgPet (When AgPet was not yet around we were living in peace tending our farms. But upon the entry of AgPet which we opposed, the Army from the 66th IB built a detachment in our community and threatened us to force us in accepting it. Lt. Garidan of 66th IB approached me a number of times and accused me of being a rebel and that I should stop opposing AgPet),” Pasic said.
The groups also said that the soldiers have forced their leaders and the youth to go to the Army detachment. The soldiers allegedly tail their leaders wherever they go.
Jimmy Saypan, secretary general of CFA said despite the threats, they will not stop in opposing the entry of the mining company in defense of their farmlands.
Saypan said he himself has been targeted by the Army.
“Sa akong kabahin ikapila naman ko nila ginainitan, gani adtong milabay nga semana gisundan na pud ko ug duha ka tirador, ang usa mibunot na sa iyahang bag pero kay namatikdan dayon nako dali-dali milarga ang ilang motor nga walay plaka. Ngano gusto man mi nila itumba? (Last week I was followed by two armed men. One of them even tried to pull something from his bag, but because I noticed them, they left quickly on board their motorcycle without a plate number. Why would they want to kill us?),” said Saypan.
Saypan said they will temporarily seek refuge here in the city, while there are still threats against them. (davaotoday.com)