AFP’s rebel surrender campaign is not only fake news but also a lucrative extortion racket – KMP

April 9, 2018

DAVAO CITY — The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said among the highlights of the four-day International Fact-Finding Mission in Mindanao has been the uncovering of the rebel surrender campaign carried out by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as a money-making modus operandi of both the military and the civilian bureaucracy.

The AFP claims that under Duterte’s watch there have already been more than 4,500 surrenderees of the New People’s Army in Mindanao, particularly in Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur. “These so-called ‘surrenders,’ however, are either fake or forced and carried through deception, coercion and other unscrupulous ways,” said KMP secretary general Antonio Flores in a press conference today in Matina, Davao City.

Testimonies of the witnesses and documentary evidence show that the said modus enables the military to access and get the reward offered by the government for NPA fighters who surrender along with their firearms, or in many cases, to extort money from civilian farmers who refuse to admit to the false claims of the authorities that they are armed rebels.

According to victims interviewed in Agusan del Sur, this is how the modus operandi works:

A team of army personnel will be deployed to the community under the pretext of Community Operations and Development Plan (COPD). They will occupy the barangay hall or other barangay facilities. Thereafter, the Philippine Army team and SCAA or CAFGU elements go to the houses of farmers, usually officers or members of militant farmers’ organizations, or their relatives, and intimidate the latter “surrender.” The 29th Infantry Battalion is deployed in the region.

According to the farmers, the army personnel offered them firearms that they will bring when they ‘surrender’ and promised them P5,000 as livelihood assistance.

Those who are not intimidated or those who refuse to “surrender” are charged with trumped-up cases such as murder, frustrated murder, or attempted murder for supposedly participating in an armed encounter against the military or the police. Other fictitious charges are kidnapping and serious illegal detention. Another way by which the military harass the farmers is through a search warrant secured from a friendly judge supposedly to search the house of the farmers who refuse to surrender for unlicensed firearms or explosives.

During the execution of the search warrant, the military men arrive first, usually at around 4A.M., knock on the house of the subject, enter it, and ask the subject of the search not to go to their farms and wait for the arrival of special persons. Later, these special persons turn out to be police personnel and the CIDG and even members of the SWAT who execute the search. After the supposed search, the police team declares that it has found either a firearm or an explosive (or a blasting cap or wire), but these are always planted evidence by either the military or the police. After the supposed recovery of those items, the subject is arrested and detained.

As there is usually no available lawyer to defend the arrested farmer, he is provided with a lawyer from the Public Attorney’s Office. The PAO lawyer, and sometimes, an errand of the prosecutor, talk to the family of the arrested farmer and ask for the payment of certain sums, ranging from P150,000.00 to P400,000.00, depending on the case filed against him, to secure his release. According to the PAO or the errand from the Prosecutor’s Office, the money will be divided by the judge, the fiscal, the PAO lawyer, and the military or the police.

Worse, if the farmer is still “uncooperative” after all these attempts by the military, he is included in the military “Kill List” and becomes target of extrajudicial killing.

“In all these cases, the military knew that the farmers they have harassed, intimidated and subjected to trumped-up cases, or even murdered, are not members of the NPA. This modus operandi of the military became rampant after the imposition of Martial Law,” said Flores.

In Southern Mindanao, the IFFSM documented 428 forced surrenderees, while in Caraga and Northern Mindanao there were 12 and 18 respectively.

“Based on our findings, ‘Oplan Kapayapaan’ is nothing but a deliberate means of violating farmers’ rights in the worst ways possible,” said Flores.

“While they violate the rights of civilians, the military earns from the reward offered by the government as those who have surrendered did not receive the promised livelihood assistance. The demand for the payment of money for the release of those arrested due to trumped-up cases, which in actuality constitute a crime of robbery or extortion perpetrated no less by the military, has been a constant occurrence,” according to Atty. Jobert Pahilga of the Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA).

“Worse, it would appear based on the data of the fact-finding mission, that the said criminal act was done with the connivance and imprimatur of the judiciary through the judge who issued search warrants that are of doubtful validity, the prosecutor who files cases in court even when clearly the cases are trumped-up but justifies his action by the simple expedient reason that the respondents failed to submit controverting evidence without considering that their failure to do so was because the military did not provide their correct address, and the PAO who demands payment for the dismissal of the case,” said Pahilga.

According to KMP, the surrender racket is just one among many cases of human rights violations that have been verified by the four-day International Fact-Finding and Solidarity Mission in Mindanao. So far, the peasant group has documented at least 115 incidents of extrajudicial killing of farmers and peasant leaders. Those who were killed were farmers resisting land grabbing, asserting genuine land reform and fighting against militarization.

Joining the mission in the caraga region are Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) convenor and former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and Kabataan Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago. Aside from the Caraga region, the international fact finding mission also sent contingents to the Southern Mindanao and Northern Mindanao regions.

Also part of the island-wide fact-finding mission teams are former DAR secretary Rafael Mariano, the Makabayan bloc, rights defenders and peace advocates from local and international people’s organizations and civil society groups. The KMP and the Mindanao for Civil Liberties are leading the mission which also include delegates from the Asian Peasant Coalition, PAN Asia Pacific, People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, International League of Peoples Struggles (ILPS) Commission 6, Youth for Food Sovereignty (YFS), KARAPATAN, National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates-Youty, PATRIA, Coalition for Land Against Oppression and Martial Rule (CLAMOR), Pamalakaya, Amihan, and Tanggol Magsasaka.#

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