We condemn in the strongest possible terms the brutal and absolutely unjustifiable use of force by state agents to quell the people’s legitimate resistance in defense of their homes on December 4, 2013 at Calangahan, Lugait town in Misamis Oriental. This use of excessive force resulted in the death of an individual, the wounding of two others and the violation of the rights of many.
Nexon Togao, the victim slain in the indiscriminate firing, was confirmed dead on arrival after two bullets shot by a plain-clothed police officer tore through his kidney and genital area. Nexon was merely trying to rescue his son who fainted from the the tear gas thrown by authorities. It must be noted that Tongao was not immediately carried towards safety due to the onslaught of bullets. Some residents overheard some police officers saying “shoot them in the head.”
We abhor the absolute disrespect of the police officers of the rights of the residents especially of the women and children. The police officers even hog-tied several women protesters in the heat of the scuffle. One police officer had the gall to tell the resident he pinned down – “we just want you to be resting in the sidelines” while his knee was pinning her to the ground.
We condemn the pronouncements coming from the responding police saying that they only acted in retaliation after residents started throwing rocks at them when in fact it was the other way around. ALBIDEC’s (Alyansa sa mga Biktima sa Demolisyon sa Calangahan or Alliance of Demolition Victims in Calangahan) leaders were intending to confront the local police force and the court sheriff as to why the demolition was so sudden. Residents say that they were only informed about the demolition at 6AM that day. The residents protested, the talks failed, and that instead of answers, the demolition team and the police forces responded by throwing canisters of tear gas at the protesting residents. This blatant twisting of facts and spewing of half-truths only aims at controlling the public opinion to deflect the public’s attention from their accountability in the Hacienda Luisita-like blood bath.
This use of force to slaughter, maim and harass to subdue a civilian populace has no place in a nation that proclaims to be democratic.
We fully understand that the bureaucratic mechanisms prevalent under the current make-up of society prevents the residents from restoring their homes destroyed by individuals whose values have lead them to believe that an individual or corporation’s right to property heavily outweighs an entire community’s right to life.
We cry foul over the persistence of cruelty committed by the corporation claiming the property. As of the moment, tensions in the community are high because the fifteen meters guaranteed by the provincial government to the residents as a temporary area for their shanties is being fenced by the members of the demolition team hired by Achondoa Agro-industrial Corporation. This is deplorable and must be stopped considering that the residents have already been displaced and that no relocation area is readily available.
We recognize that the path to elevate the residents from their bitter plight requires a steadfast, sustained and willful effort. We assert that the target area for relocation must be near the residents’ source of income – the sea, since a majority of them are fisherfolk.
We appeal to the local government to continue providing for the immediate humanitarian concerns of the demolished residents – food and medicines. We challenge them to fully commit to the demands of the people for land, livelihood and decent living.
More importantly, those accountable for the blood shed must face justice. Their blatant abuse of force and severe disregard for human dignity must be halted. The residents will not be cowed. The residents have lost their homes for a second time. Now, more than ever, they are determined to assert their rights. The victims are more than ready to face the perpetrators in the formal halls, street, parliaments and everywhere needed to put these masquerading butchers behind bars.
Wildon C. Barros
Task Force Lugait
Gary Ben Villocino
Public Information Officer
Task Force Lugait
* Task Force Lugait is an alliance formed after the violent demolition of around 250 shanties in Calangahan, Lugait, Misamis Oriental on 04 December 2013. It will work for the assertion of the right of the demolition victims to land, livelihood and decent living, and will convene an international fact finding mission to probe the violent demolition and file necessary charges against the perpetrators. Task Force Lugait is composed of ALBIDEC, the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPL), and the Northern Mindanao formations of Karapatan, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), AMIHAN, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya sa Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), League of Filipino Students (LFS) and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).