Military Denounced for Abuses in Talaingod, Digos

Mar. 24, 2007

DAVAO CITY The human-rights group Karapatan has denounced the so-called Re-engineered Special Operations Team of the 39th Infantry Battalion under Lt. Jerald Ho for allegedly sowing fear and terror among residents of sitio Bandera Brgy. Balabag in Digos City.

The group also criticized the military for the alleged human rights violations perpetrated by elements of the 73rd Infantry Battalion, the Cafgu paramilitary group and Alamara militia against the Ata-Manobo tribe in Talaingod town, Davao del Norte.

Farmers from Digos City have reported to the group that their normal farming activities were disrupted and their lives and properties were at risk from imminent hostilities since the RSOT team of the 39th IB started its so-called census in the said area last March 6.

According to Karapatan, fully armed soldiers have been patrolling in the farms of local residents and had in many instances forced civilians to get inside the makeshift military camp located at the barangay centers former cooperative building for interrogation.

Nine peasant leaders of Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Lumayan-Bandera, an affiliate farmers organization of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Digos City, have reported incidents of red-baiting and labeling, harassments and forced surrender. They were accused of being members of the New Peoples Army and were coerced to surrender, presenting them as NPA fighters during meetings on March 18 and 19.

Karapatan said that last February 18, Lucio Madagat, a 58-year-old farmer and motorcycle driver, was forcibly taken by six fully armed men while he was inside his house in sitio Lote, barangay Gom, Digos City.

The victim was with his brother Ernesto Madagat and four nieces when the incident happened. According to Madagat, the perpetrators, two of whom wore bonnets while the the four others were in combat shoes and fatigue uniforms, barged into their house at around 9 p.m. before taking Lucio with them. One month after the incident, the victim remained still missing.

Madagat was suspected of being a member of NPA after his drivers license, according to the military, was found by elements of the 39th IB at an area of military operation.

Karapatans Kelly Delgado said the RSOT in Davao del Sur violated Part III Article 2 Sections 7, 9, 11 and 12 of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Laws (CARHRIHL) which provides that civilians have the right not to be subjected on physical or mental torture, right to substantive procedural process, right to freedom of thought and expression on political beliefs, right to association and seek redress of grievances; respectively.

Also, he said, Part IV, Article 12 of CARHRIHL which provides the right of the civilian population to be protected against the risks and dangers posed by the presence of military camps in urban centers and other populated areas was also violated.

Karapatan called for the immediate pullout of the 39th IB in Davao del Sur and for the local government of Digos City and the Commission on Human Rights to conduct a thorough investigation into the allegations against the military.

Appropriate disciplinary action must be enforced upon the elements of the said AFP unit responsible for their failure to observe international humanitarian principles and standards, Delgado said. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos all-out war campaign has viciously placed the lives of the Filipino people in a more perilous situation — a formula that has failed to address the real cause of insurgency in the Philippines.

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