Elements of the 73rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) operating in Sarangani province intensified military operations, under Oplan Bayanihan, victimizing members of the Blaan tribe. “The unit is under the 10th “Agila” Division of Gen. Eduardo Año. It is no wonder we see Palparan’s torture style imprinted on the documented cases of human right violations against the people,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.
Scores of cases of human rights violations such as torture and food blockade were among those committed against the Blaan tribe, specifically those in the remote villages in the municipality of Malapatan. The cases were documented during a fact-finding mission held on April 27-29, 2015.
“A number of these cases happened after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) failed to pursue members of the New People’s Army (NPA). Unable to find and fight their equal, the AFP has time and again resorted to retaliatory violence victimizing the unarmed population. Let us not allow such barbarity to continue. All military units should immediately be pulled out from civilian communities. The 73rd IBPA and Gen. Eduardo Año should be made accountable for the several violations against the Blaan,”said Palabay.
On the first week of April alone, Blaan men were tortured when 21 members of the 73rd IB-PA led by Lt. Jordan and Cpl. Peter Maquiling arrived at Bgy. Upper Suyan, Malapatan municipality. The soldiers went to several sitio (villages) and harassed the residents.
One of those tortured was Ruben Wating, 35, a farmer with eight children.
On April 5, a certain “Gober”, said to be Commanding Officer of the Reconnaissance Company of the 73rd IB-PA, two soldiers named Ricky Sotal and Toto Sukal, and one unnamed member of the PNP-Malapatan went to the house of Ruben Wating. Soldiers accused Wating to be among the NPA members they encountered three days before.
When Wating disputed their claim, the soldiers forced him to drink two gallons of “tuba” or coconut wine with them. At 9 p.m., after they finished the wine, they brought Wating to a nearby creek where he was tortured. He was kicked in the neck, his left thumbnail clipped with pliers while another punched the right side of Ruben’s limb. Desperate, a soldier pulled a .45 cal. and aimed at Ruben’s forehead. Ruben was ordered to drop to the ground and when he did, the soldiers repeatedly stepped on Ruben’s legs on to his back. Later, they instructed to stand up and run. Ruben refused to follow for fear that soldiers would shoot him. The soldiers then brought Ruben to a neighbor’s house where he was again punched; his hands smashed with a bamboo stick. After some time, the soldiers allowed Wating to go home but even before he could leave, one of the soldiers hit his back with a belt. That night, six soldiers slept over at Ruben’s house. On April 7, 2015, the soldiers of 73rd IBPA insisted to bring Ruben with them for him to surrender. Ruben refused to go with them for they don’t have any warrant of arrest to show and that he did nothing wrong. The soldiers simply left.
Several other men were tortured by the same unit in other villages. Among them were Masulong Ambat and his brother Jimmy Ambat whose 25 kilos of rice, two packs of cigarettes and two packs of instant noodles were confiscated on the accusation that these were supplies for the NPA. The soldiers punched and pointed their knife and rifle at Jimmy and Masulong; walked on Jimmy’s legs down to his feet. They spilled the 25 kilos of rice on the ground.
Cristina “Tinay” Palabay
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Building
#1 Maaralin corner Matatag Streets
Central District, Diliman
Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
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.