Lumad, farmers file complaints against army's 8th, 88th infantry battalions

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Indigenous people from Bukidnon filed a number of harassment complaints against the 88th and 8th Infantry battalions (IB) on Tuesday morning, March 6, at the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights regional office here.

Ireneo Udarbe of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Northern Mindanao Region said that the 10 complaints were lodged today against the military because of harassment against the communities.

Ronilo Menente, a member of landless farmer group Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus (BTL) in Musuan, Maramag, Bukidnon, said army soldiers from the 88th IB have become a constant presence in their communities and have accused members of BTL as supporters of the New People’s Army.

BTL has been asking the government to give them the land that is owned by Central Mindanao University. The Supreme Court however granted ownership to the CMU, a state university.

“They are asking for our leaders, the names and their whereabouts, that made us worry for our safety,” Menente said.

Menente added that on January 12, 2018, during the BTL day, the army joined their celebration without invitation.

Federico Padilla, also a member of BTL said that they are afraid for their lives because the military might create a scenario against them.

Udarbe said that the IPs have no recourse but to file their complaint because of the worsening harassment by the military.

“Others are forced to surrender and accused of being a rebels,” Udarbe said.

Udarbe also said the army are conducting house to house visits, asking residents to surrender.

Red-tagging

Father Rolando Abejo of the Aglipayan Church Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) said the harassment of the people is a direct result of President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown against people and people’s organization who he perceived as against him.

“There is a crackdown and red-tagging (accusing people as communists) against those against his government,” Abejo said.

“There is a legitimate people’s concern on land and human rights and the rights of the indigenous people, Lumad who are calling for their ancestral domains, and they are the ones the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the government is running after,” Abejo said.

Abejo said that the government accuses people’s organization calling out for government support as legal fronts for the rebels, “the government should run after the rebels because they are the enemy, not the farmers, the IPs,” Abejo said.

The 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, however, denies the claim against the soldiers.

1st Lieutenant Tere Ingente, 4th ID spokesperson said that the military did not arrest anybody nor visited houses in the conduct of their duty.

Ingente said that the military merely “invited” 10 people from Kitaotao, Bukidnon to the headquarters of the 88th IB.

Ingente added the people were invited for questioning and were release within 36 hours after the invitation.

As for the other complaints, Ingente said that these could be propaganda against the army.

Reymundo Cajes, Special Investigator of the CHR said that their office will look and investigate this complaints and if merited, “We will file administrative or criminal cases against the soldiers,” Cajes said. – Rappler.com