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    Militant groups expose worsening human rights situation in Quezon, announces formation of task force against militarization

    PRESS RELEASE, 14 May 2012 –  Different sectoral groups from Southern Tagalog led by KARAPATAN-ST and KASAMA-TK today held a press conference to expose the worsening human rights situation in the southern part of Quezon, which they said was caused by intensifying militarization of the rural communities in the said area.

    According to KARAPATAN-ST Secretary General Glenl Malabanan, Eight (8) combat battalions of the Army, the PNP and CAFGU are currently deployed in 22 towns of the 1st and 2nd district of Quezon alone.  She added that, in the history of counterinsurgency operations in Southern Tagalog, they believe this is the largest concentration of military forces in a relatively small area.

    “We are alarmed at the real intention of this large scale militarization. While the AFP is saying that this is part of their efforts to crush down NPA rebels, it is the countryside civilians who become victims to human rights abuse by soldiers,” Malabanan said.

    The group cited a case of abduction in March last year in Macalelon town. Unidentified armed men allegedly took Farmer Felix Balaston to the 85th Infantry Battalion’s camp. He remains missing to date.

    Just recently, last March 22, 2012, some drunken members of the 74th Infantry Battalion were reported to have manhandled some youth in San Andres town. Other cases of threat, harassment, intimidation, illegal arrest and detention perpetrated against local farmers are also being verified by KARAPATAN-ST.

    Malabanan slammed the Aquino government’s counterinsurgency program “Oplan Bayanihan” as the culprit behind the human rights abuse.

    “Like its predecessor, Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya, Pres. Aquino’s ‘Bayanihan’ is targeting farmers and rural folks who struggle for land reform and are critical of government anti-people policies. We must not forget that under ‘Bantay Laya’ there have been 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killings, 206 enforced disappearances, and other human rights violations cases numbering in the thousands. What we see now is a repeat of this situation,” Malabanan said.

    Meanwhile, Pedro “Tata Pido” Gonzales, secretary general of fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA-ST and who hails from Quezon, said in the press conference that the protection of landlord and big business interests could be the real intention of the intensified militarization. He said that though Quezon is rich in agriculture, farmers suffer in the hands of landlords.  “Adding to this burden is the military acting out a private army for landlords and big businessmen,” he said.

    KASAMA-TK Secretary General Orly Marcellana, also a native of Quezon, added that while farmers ask for land, the Aquino government replies with battalions of armies. “This proves that there is no difference between Aquino and Arroyo. Then, during the Arroyo regime, farmers call for land but are answered with brutality. Now, the situation remains the same,” he said.

    The groups in the press conference announced the formation of a task force under the banner “Stop Militarization, Save the People of Quezon” with a rally on May 15 as its kick-off.

    “May 15 is well-known for Pahiyas Festival in Quezon where we celebrate the feast day of San Isidro Labrador, the patron saint of farmers. While during this day we usually give our thanks for a bountiful harvest, our protest action tomorrow will show that there is no reason to celebrate because of the killings and injustices that we are experiencing,” Gonzales said.

    The group said a satirical parade will highlight tomorrow’s rally where instead of being colorful, typical of a traditional fiesta parade, theirs will show the dark and brutal reality of the countryside because of militarization. ###

    KARAPATAN-SOUTHERN TAGALOG
    PRESS STATEMENT
    14 May 2012

    STOP MILITARIZATION, SAVE THE PEOPLE OF QUEZON!

    The human rights group KARAPATAN-Southern Tagalog, along with the victims’ families and other sectoral organizations in the region, condemn in the strongest possible terms the unprecedented deployment of military in the province of Quezon, which has resulted to escalating human rights violations in the area. To date, at least 8 battalions of the Philippine Army have been operating in the Southern part of Quezon alone.

    Units deployed in the area include Philippine Army’s 85th, 76th, 74th, 59th Infantry Battalions, 1st Special Forces of the Philippine Army, 201st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, CAFGU and 416th Provincial Police Mobile Group. While past administrations have also employed militarization in their counterinsurgency programs, the recent deployment in South Quezon is but alarming considering the concentrated number of military relative to the area it operates.

    Quezon, specifically South Quezon and Bondoc Peninsula, can be considered as center of agricultural production where products such as coconut, corn, and grains abound. Minerals such as gold and petroleum also flourish in these areas. Development programs of both the government and private companies which include Bio-diesel in Gumaca, Mirant Powerplant Extension in Atimonan, and dam construction in Macalelon are also concentrated in South Quezon and Bondoc Peninsula. Touted as ‘Hacienda belt’, Bondoc Peninsula, meanwhile, has thousands of farm lands owned by the families Murray, Soleta, Estrada-Quizon, Tan, Reyes and Matias.

    With these potential coupled with the agricultural blissfulness of the province, and the growing resistance of the locals particularly of the farmers, it is no wonder why the government has deployed that much number of military and police to South Quezon and Bondoc Peninsula.

    A case of abduction in Macalelon town in March 27, 2011 was already reported to Karapatan. Unidentified armed men allegedly took farmer Felix Balaston to the 85th Infantry Battalion’s camp. He remains missing to date.

    Just recently, last March 22, 2012, some drunk members of the 74th Infantry Battalion were reported to have manhandled some youth in San Andres town namely Rey Rodrigo (16 y/o), Reynaldo Delos Santos(18y/o) and Elmer Desuyo(21 y/o).

    Other cases of threat, harassment, intimidation, illegal arrest and detention perpetrated against local farmers are also being verified by KARAPATAN-ST.

    Army forces are currently stationed in houses and barangay (village) centers. Detachments are mounted in about 50 barangays in the rural areas of South Quezon. Several local farmers’ groups in South Quezon consistent in their struggle for genuine land reform against big landlords and businesses are now targeted by the military in their operations.

    We call on the Aquino administration to immediately pull out the military and police troops deployed in South Quezon. While the government proudly banners its counter insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan in the name of ‘peace and development’ and continues to echo its mantra for the ‘respect for human rights’, farmers, workers, and other members of the basic sectors fighting for their democratic rights experience the most inhumane treatment from state forces.

    We decry the brutality and manhandling of the military and police forces to the people of Quezon. It is unacceptable how those who have sworn to protect the interests of and defend the people are now the ones causing terror and sowing fear to them. The militarization in Quezon is not an isolated case. Elsewhere in the country, suppression of democratic and civil rights is blatant and prevalent. During the time of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, there were about 180 reported cases of extra judicial killings (EJKs), 32 enforced disappearances, and other atrocities in the Southern Tagalog region alone. The human rights situation has even exacerbated when President Aquino assumed position, with 16 cases of EJKs and 3 disappeared in the region. Not to mention the continuing crackdown and filing of trumped up charges against political activists.

    If President Aquino is serious in bringing justice and long-lasting peace in the country, then we challenge him to investigate the human rights cases and put an end to these human rights abuses by denouncing its Oplan Bayanihan. He can never silence the growing unrest of the people. As his regime continuously deny the people of their basic rights and liberty, the oppressed people are left with no other choice but to stand up and fight.

    We rally all peace loving citizens to unite in condemning this injustice and abuse done to our fellow men. We also call on everyone to support the anti-militarization and anti-fascist campaign in the region.

    This is just the start. We vow to continue the struggle until all forms of human rights violations is stopped and justice is served to all victims.

    EXPOSE AND OPPOSE OPLAN BAYANIHAN!
    JUSTICE TO ALL VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS!
    MILITARY TROOPS IN THE COUNTRYSIDE, OUT NOW!

    Reference: Glenn Malabanan [09185682090]
    Secretary-General, Karapatan-ST
    Contact: Carmela Lagang (Media Liaison) [09166233176]
    ———————————————————————
    PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
    publicinfo@karapatan.org
    ———————————————————————
    Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
    2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
    Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
    Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
    Web: http://www.karapatan.org

    KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties.  It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.

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