“The sickle is no equal to terrorism, release our farmers now!” – Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas

Following GRP’s hosting of the 2017 ASEAN Summit attended by US President and the current face of imperialism Donald Trump, Duterte’s tongue-lashing over progressive groups, and the 360 proclamation and termination of peace negotiations with the Philippine reds, four farmers in Samar island in the Eastern Visayas region were nabbed by military elements in a span of two weeks.

Fourteen days after the illegal arrest of Marabut, Samar peasant-leader and head of Tag-alag Farmers and Fisherfolks Association Carlito “James” Badillo who admitted being harassed, tortured, and threatened by elements of the 87th Infantry Battalion last November 10, three more farmers in Palapag, Northern Samar were abducted by alleged elements of the 20th Infantry Battalion. The farmers and members of the Northern Samar Small Farmers Association (NSSFA) who were identified as Richard Avino, Teny Gerbon, and Arnel Aquino are believed to be detained at the detachment of the 20th IB at Brgy. Opong, Catubig, Northern Samar.

The three farmers from Northern Samar are still left unsurfaced as soldiers refuse to disclose their whereabouts. For two consecutive days, the family of the said farmers and human rights group Katungod Northern Samar went to the detachment of the 20th IB in the town proper of Palapag, Northern Samar, urging the military to release the abducted farmers. But instead of discharging the peasant group members, a suspected soldier phone-called Katungod Northern Samar Secretary General Sargie Macallan yesterday, November 24, asking who among the arrested persons would he choose to die.

In Matuguinao, Samar, sixty families were forced to evacuate to the forests due to the intensifying militarization in their town. The military did not only bring fear to these peasant communities but also paralyze their livelihood, thus a threat to their lives. It can be recalled that there have been aerial bombings in the said town since May this year as recorded by Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas.

Aside from the warrantless searches, suspicious men have been hopping from peasant organization to peasant organization, presenting pictures of staffs of Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas and asking for their names and address. Tailings over peasant leaders and human rights workers all over the region have also been intensified.

Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (Sagupa SB) calls for the immediate release of Badillo who is currently facing illegal possession of firearms and explosives as charged by the military and to swiftly surface the three farmers in Palapag, Northern Samar. The regional peasant group pressed that the Duterte administration and the AFP must be held accountable for the intensifying human rights violations in Eastern Visayas. Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas also urge the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to record and act upon these human rights abuses.

“The sickle is no equal to terrorism. We challenge the Philippine Army to release our farmers now,” said Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas Secretary General Jun Berino.

With a hundred and fifty new soldiers in Eastern Visayas and four more military battalions to be re-deployed in the region, more human rights violations and similar cases are possible to happen.

“Soldiers in the region under the 8th Infantry Division are intensifying their Community Support Programs (CSP), deploying more Peace and Development Teams (PDT) to barrios, now fully disregarding the International Human Rights Law (IHL). This is all because of the foolishness of their head, Rodrigo Duterte, to terminate peace talks and declare an all-out war against its very people,” said Berino.

According to Berino, militancy and resistance with vigilance at this tempestuous times are things the Filipino people, especially the marginalized sectors, should practice.

Sagupa Sinirangan Bisayas urges the public to report all the human rights abuses and suspicious actions of alleged military elements in the region while actively supporting the back-to-back mass actions and protests.

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