By MARILOU AGUIRRE-TUBURAN
DAVAO CITY — Members of the peasant group Patulangon Farmers Association (Patufa) cried harassment against the 39th Infantry Battalion and the 72nd Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Bernie Marciano, a Patufa member, said 15 to 30 soldiers from the 39th IB and 72nd IB are currently staying in the barangay hall of Sitio (sub-village) Patulangon of Barangay Zone 1, a violation of the provision in the International Humanitarian Law that prohibits soldiers from encamping in civilian communities.
Zone 1 is a village in Sta. Cruz town in Davao del Sur, where the peasant group Patufa engages peasants to be aware of their political rights.
Marciano said that on May 4, soldiers from the 39th IB and 72nd IB arrived in Patulangon and went from house to house, as if they were conducting census.He said the 72nd IB has also been recruiting Cafgus in the barangay.
“They were looking for me,” Marciano, 30, said, referring to the soldiers. “They said they just wanted me to be their friend.” Marciano has been a member of Patufa since 1998.
When he asked why the military encamped in their community, the soldiers said they were just securing the area for the elections and to enforce gun ban.
The soldiers said they will get out of the village after the elections. But Marciano said the election was already over and yet, the soldiers are still camping and roving around their sitio.
“They roam around in plainclothes,” said Jolito Orquiza, 43, married with four children.
Other soldiers wore uniforms but they “deliberately” covered their nametags with their rifles so residents won’t know their names.
“Now, they are calling for a pulong-pulong (forum),” Orquiza said. He has been a Patufa member since 1995.
Days after the May 10 elections, soldiers went house to house to invite residents to a May 30 forum in Sitio Malusing Proper. Soldiers allegedly had a list of 35 names whose names will be marked “X” and will be put in the OB (order of battle) list if they fail to attend the forum. But the military did not divulge who the 35 people were. The soldiers said the list was “confidential.”
The existence of such list alarmed the residents of sitios Patulangon and Malusing. They said that soldiers, particularly the 39th IB, had a history of abuses in their area.
In 2006, the 39th IB, under a certain 1Lt. Bruce Tucong, arrived in Barangay Zone 1 and invited residents to their detachment for investigation.
“They pressured civilians to go to their detachment. But once civilians got to the detachment, soldiers took their pictures and tagged them as NPA surrenderees,” Marciano said.
It was also the 39th IB members who were reportedly looking for Patufa members and leaders. Once, they came looking for Gina Bernardo, former chairman of Patufa, who was in Digos City. When the soldiers saw Bernardo’s three-year old son Kenneth, they took the boy and led him to the back of a neighbor’s house. There, they made the boy carry an armalite and took the boy’s picture, the boy’s aunt recalled.