Thanks to Army, ComVal Remains ‘Valley of Death,’ Karapatan

May. 04, 2007

DAVAO CITY — Compostela Valley Province still bears the name it earned a long time ago for what could only be blamed on the military — the Valley of Death, the human-rights group Karapatan said.

This, the group said, is a result of the continued rule of military brutality and fascism in the area under 1001st Brigade-Philippine Army (PA) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The group based this observation from its four (4) months report in its monitoring of cases of human rights violations in the region from January 2007 to April 2007.

Kelly M. Delgado, secretary general of Karapatan Southern Mindanao, said the cases of human rights violations in the province are very alarming.

Karapatan has documented four (4) cases of Killings, three (3) cases of Frustrated Massacre, frustrated killing, tortured, Harassment/threat/Intimidation and electioneering being perpetrated by the elements of the 67th, 28th and 25th Infantry Battalions under 1001st Brigade.

The victims of killings were Grecil S. Buya, Aurelia Bugahod, Elias Mabundas both from New Bataan and were killed by the elements of 67th and 28th IB PA and Aquiles Castro Tungal killed by the elements of the 25th IB PA in Pantukan.

Victims of frustrated massacre are Warlito Villafuerte Jr., Warlito Villafuerte Sr., Monith Bugahod, Beato Suralta in New Bataan, Ronjo Triste, Joselito Biloca and Jimmy Labor in Barangay Linda, Nabunturan perpetrated by the elements of 28th IB PA.

Another case was of the 11 years old Arnulfo Tungal son of Aquiles who survived the killing perpetrated by the elements of 25th IB PA last April 19, 2007.

Delgado said there is a concrete and widespread notoriety by state military forces in the area.

He added that military atrocities in the area continue even with the existence of laws such as the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAR-HR-IHL), Geneva Conventions Protocols 1 and 2 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

All these laws mandate state military forces to distinguish civilian populace from combatants and are designed protect civilians from being objects of hostilities.

Delgado, however, said these laws would continue to be violated as the Arroyo government seemed determined to continue to implement its war on terror. He said Malacanang even continues to give orders to AFP to fully execute Operational Plan Bantay Laya 2 in the governments bid to resolve insurgency in the country, which has rather pointed to civilians as primary targets of state-sponsored terrorism.

The unabated military operations and the harassment of civilians are part of the Arroyo government’s intensified counter-insurgency campaign. The state security forces are making mincemeat out of our sacred rights and freedoms. It is apparent that Arroyo administration cannot rule and govern without resorting to peaceful methods. Mrs. Arroyo has even chosen to silence her critics on various combinations: on the sly, with impunity, and blatantly, Delgado said.

Compostela Valley Province, Delgado said, is now suffering the results of this grand plan of the OPLAN BANTAY LAYA 2 targeting and victimizing civilians in most municipalities in the province. The prevalence of military supremacy in these areas will continue to worsen the human rights situation in the region.

The human rights group believes that the massing up of government forces in the area can be explained with the governments interest in allowing the entry and implementation of the transnational corporation projects this year. These projects aim to cover at hectares of rubber and banana plantation and for mining activities in New Bataans rich mineral resources.

We are hence, calling and challenging all Local Government Units in Compostela Valley Province to invoke civilian supremacy over the military. Likewise, we are encouraging them to make a stand on cases of human rights violations and help the victims find justice, Delgado said.

For the relief of the residents in New Bataan, Delgado asserts, an immediate pull-out of the 28th Infantry Battalion in the area should be pushed while culprits of the recent killings in the area should be punished and incarcerated.

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