DAVAO CITY, Philippines—A militant lawmaker on Friday urged Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to order the immediate pullout of military in Compostela Valley province to end the unabated killings targeting lowly Lumad farmers.
While Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao lauded the efforts of the Duterte administration to pursue peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, he said that “it requires concrete actions for the protection of the basic rights of marginalized sectors, especially the farmers in the countryside.”
Casilao’s statement came on the heels of an untimely death of Federico “Pande” Plaza, a Lumad farmer-activist and a village indigenous people mandatory representative of Poblacion in Maragusan, Compostela Valley who was gunned down by unidentified assailants at 4 p.m on May 3, Wednesday.
In the Davao region, Plaza is the 25th farmer-victim of extra-judicial killing. Earlier, human rights group Karapatan blamed the Army’s 71st and 46th Infantry Battalion as the unseen hand behind Plaza’s death, a claim also alleged by local residents, according to Casilao.
He said that Compostela Valley province became a “valley of death” because “farmer-activists opposing mining, land grabbing and displacement” were brutally killed such as the case of Jimmy Saypan, an environmental defender and leader of Compostela Farmers Association and the deaths of the farmer-couple Ramon and Leonila Pesadilla, who donated a parcel of lands for a Lumad school.
“We hold the Philippine military primarily responsible for this brutality, and the continuing silence and inaction of President Duterte on the matter will not absolve him, as he is supposedly the commander-in-chief of the AFP, we demand justice for Plaza, for the more than 50 farmers and all the victims of extra-judicial killings,” Casilao said in a protest rally today in front of the Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City to condemn the killing of Plaza.
Friday’s protest rally was organized by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and participated by Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) and Madaum Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Association, Inc. (MARBAI).
“What good is the peace talks, if the killings remain unabated, it would turn out to be ‘peace of the dead, not of the living,’ the president should immediately pull-out the military from farmer communities and take serious steps to reprimand his military, who is appearing to take command from elsewhere, not from him, the people want peace based on justice, we urge the president to take the side of the farmers, and stop the killing of farmers in the country,” Casilao said. (davaotoday.com)