MANILA – The newly assigned soldiers in the Cordillera region are “following the same old notorious footprints of the previous units” when it comes to human rights violations.
This was the statement of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA).
In Ifugao, the 86th IB is replaced by the 54th IB. On their first day of duty, the 54th IB occupied the village center of Gumhang, Tinoc, Ifugao.
“This is a clear violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Besides being the barangay (village) hall it is also being maximized by the community as their daycare center. Their continuing encampment on the said community center is putting the community at risk,” Jude Baggo, CHRA secretary general, said.
CHRA data showed that the 54th IBPA committed human rights violations when it was based in Botigue, Paracelis, Mt. Province. These include the torture of two civilians from the tri-boundary of Alfonso Lista, Aguinaldo and Paracelis and cases destruction and divestment of properties.
Baggo called on affected communities to be more vigilant and assertive in defending their rights given the track records of these army brigades. “There is nothing to celebrate about the pull out of the 86th IB back from Isabela province. Their victims though should pursue them for perpetrating human rights violations,” he said.
The 86th IB has been operating in the Ilocos, Cagayan and Cordillera regions. Baggo said the Army unit is notorious for human rights violations ranging from extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, destruction and divestment of properties and filing up of trumped-up charges against civilians.
“There is blood in the hands of the 86th IBPA. We should not forget the lives of Elmer Valdez, an ordinary peasant in Ilocos Sur, the couple Vic and Rosario Valenzuela of Isabela who perished at the hands of the 86th IBPA. Their deaths were justified by the military claiming that their victims were members of the New People’s Army (NPA),” Baggo said
Baggo also said the 86th IB tortured a government employee in Tinoc, destroyed and divested agriculture crops, tools, and equipment of peasants in Tinoc and Asipulo, Ifugao. He said that two minors from Mankayan, Benguet were raped by an officer of the military unit. “As a result, one of the victims is suffering from dissociative amnesia, a stage where in she cannot recall significant events of traumatic and stressful nature, after the incident,” he added.
Baggo also cited the filing of trumped-up charges against youth leaders, development workers and innocent civilians by the 86th IB. These include Virgilio Corpuz, a Piston organizer and a staff of the Katinnulong Dagiti Umili iti Amianan (Kaduami) and Rene Boy Abiva, an organizer of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and at the same time an employee of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Grayson Naogsan. Mildred Salang-ey, a student leader of Mountain Province State Polytechnic College (MPSPC) was also charged by the 86th IB but her case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.
Baggo also mentioned the Target List of Persons for the Municipality of Tinoc released by the 86th IB branding government employees, members and leaders of peoples organizations, human rights defenders and development workers as NPA supporters.
From 21st IB to 17th IBPA
In Kalinga, the 21st IB is replaced by the 17th IB.
In July this year, development workers in Kalinga were harassed by the elements of the 17th IB led a certain Sgt. Jessa dela Paz and Sgt. Albert Lopez. The victims were interrogated.
CHRA reported that the 17th IB even went on to vilify progressive party list groups as fronts of the NPA. Sgt. Lopez was quoted in a community meeting saying that major problems of the community is caused by the NPA.
Local community folk in Baay, Pinukpuk on the other hand said their urgent needs are farm-to-market road, road systems and water works. Some sitios in Limos are being used by the 17th IB for military purposes endangering civilians.
“These violations are actually not different from the 21st IB. It is a mere continuation of their orientation. While it is also true that the 21st is pulled out from Kalinga but the scars they left still mar the communities,” Baggo said.
“We should not forget the cold blooded killings of Victor Balais, Rocky Aboli, Rey Logao and Robert Sabado by the 21st IB and the 77th IB. Before the incident, the family of Victor Balais even offered coffee and food to the soldiers,” Baggo said.
Earlier CHRA reports showed that Balais was killed near their house in Asibanglan, Pinukpuk. Rocky Aboli was a member of the barangay council of Western Uma, Lubuagan. He was killed in his farm. Rey Logao also was with a companion were going to the pastureland in Mabongtot, Lubuagan when they were shot by the military. His companion was able to run and survived. Robert Sabado was a deaf-mute also killed by the same unit.
Baggo underscored the rape of two minors in Pinukpuk, Kalinga by elements of the 21st IB. The victims were brought to the military camp of the 86th IB. They were lured to drink beer and fell unconscious. The two were also photographed while assembling and disassembling a rifle.
He further mentioned the cycle of destruction and divestment of agricultural crops and property in the communities of Balbalan, Pinukpuk, and Lubuagan. He added the 21st IB’s list of atrocities the frustrated extrajudicial killings of innocent civilians in Lubuagan and Balbalan, continuing encampment inside communities resulting to numerous rights violations, introduction of anti-social activities, use of women in the context of the armed conflict resulting to conflict in the community. He also said that the military units were being used as investment defense units for destructive corporations.
Baggo further pointed out that the army’s redeployment of troops is just a change of guards but the orientation of troops does not change. He said that they are still guided by Oplan Bayanihan which is not really different from the previous counter insurgency operation plans of the previous administrations.
“We should remember that until now justice has not been served to many if not all the victims. We should remember that the 21st IB and the 86th IB should be held accountable to all their crimes against the people wherever they go. With all these violations, we should rage as people and as communities. We should be united and determined to assert and defend our rights as people and as communities,” Baggo said.