Batangas attacks may lead to ML — Karapatan
◢ Jose Martin V. Singh
There are prospects of the declaration of martial law in Batangas as the unjust use of military power is manifested, said Edwin Egar, spokesperson of human rights group Karapatan – Southern Tagalog (ST) chapter.
“Ala-Marawi ‘yung nangyayari. Gusto rin siguro [ng militar] i-declare [ang] martial law,” said Egar, citing similarities in the military attacks in Marawi and Batangas. It can be used as a justification to declare martial law here in Luzon. It might also lead to a nationwide declaration since martial law in Mindanao is still ongoing, he added.
“[With] the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)’s use of excessive force, it seemed that aerial bombings are becoming the new normal for AFP troops whenever there are conflicts, regardless of their impact on civilian communities,” Karapatan-ST said in a statement.
The AFP began attacking areas in the municipality of Lobo in Batangas in mid-September. The AFP cited a “firefight” with the New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas in the morning of September 24 at the tri-boundary near Lobo area as the reason for the aerial attacks, according to reports.
A fact-finding team led by Egar was spearheaded since September 24 to look for evidence and determine the number of casualties. However, the military prevented them from entering the said area. As such, details were only culled from reports made by residents, organizations and local officials, said Egar.
“Hindi namin ma-confirm [‘yung exact data] dahil di kami pinapapasok … Hindi pa namin nakikita yung area,” he said.
Nevertheless, residents have reported at least three civilian deaths. A father and child had been killed due to the recent aerial strikes. An alleged member of the NPA was also reportedly killed in an encounter with government troops on September 24.
Hundreds of families have been forced to evacuate since September 24, according to a statement by Karapatan. However, Egar finds the evacuation and clearing of the areas as a means to take advantage of a piece of land perceived to be a mining site.
“Ganun nangyayari sa areas na balak [nilang] sakupin … [Inaatake nila] para minahin,” said Egar.
Meanwhile, the aerial bombings reportedly stopped as of October 5. “[The] residents are [now] safe in the said areas,” said Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay.
There are no reports of forced displacement as the residents are able to return to their domains immediately. They did not stay too long in the evacuation centers, said Egar.
However, a number of harassment cases in Barangays Talibayog and Hukay in Calatagan, Batangas were recorded on October 6, according to a factsheet prepared by La Paz de Padua of Karapatan-Batangas. The attacks and harassments of state forces violate the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the factsheet stated.
The houses of Councilor Eduardo Peñaflorida, Brgy. Captain Manolo Delos Reyes, Senando Marco and Allan Dimaisip were reportedly searched without warrant by military elements, especially men from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, in Calatagan since October 5.
The men whose houses were searched are leaders and members of worker groups. Marco is president and Delos Reyes is vice president of Samahan ng Mamamayan at Magsasaka sa Baha at Talibayog (SMMBT). Dimaisip, on the other hand, is a member of the Samahan ng Magsasaka at Mangingisda ng Barangay Hukay Inc. (SMMBHI).
On October 6, guns, bullets and a grenade were allegedly found in their houses. The said officials denied the accusations of possessing arms, saying the police planted them in their houses.
“We call on the AFP to pull out the military troops from the said communities. Civilians are victimized by [the] aerial bombings and harassment [by military men],” said Palabay.
Likewise, Egar calls on the citizens of Batangas, especially the church people, to join in the fact-finding mission on October 15. We also call on the local government and the Commision on Human Rights to cooperate with us. Help us investigate the events and end the attacks, he said. ◢
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