Farmers support mounting calls for the release of Tacloban 5 activists

NTF-ELCAC is a big stumbling block to the resumption of peace talks

Farmers support mounting calls for the release of Tacloban 5 activists

Farmers’ organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas reiterated its demand and call for the immediate release of five Eastern Visayas-based activists who were arrested in the early morning raids of offices of progressive organizations in Tacloban City last February 7. “There are mounting calls for the immediate release of the Tacloban 5. We demand the release of community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, human rights worker Alexander Abinguna, activists Mariel Dumequil, Mira Legion, and environmental rights defender Marissa Cabaljao.

A national fact-finding mission and solidarity visit to the Tacloban 5 was organized by human rights group Karapatan and other groups.

Last Friday, February 7, the offices of Karapatan-EV chapter Katungod, KMP chapter SAGUPA, and Bayan-EV in Fatima Village, Bañezville, Brgy. 77, Tacloban City and the staff house of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-EV and Eastern Vista alternative media in Calanipawan, Tacloban City were raided between 1:00 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. by combined elements of the PNP Region 8 and Crime Investigation and Detection Group. Guns, ammunition, one machine gun and materials for an improvised explosive device were planted in the said offices. The search warrant used in the raids was issued by Executive Judge Eligio Petilla of Regional Trial Court Branch 44 in Tacloban City.

KMP also lambasted the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for directing the nationwide crackdown against progressive mass organizations and activists whom the NTF tags as ‘communist fronts.’  

The NTF is instrumental in the successive killings, abduction, illegal arrests, filing of trumped-up charges, and imprisonment of activists and individuals who are critical of the government. So far, the NTF have been using every tactic in its whole-of-nation approach playbook to carry out wanton human rights violations and attacks against civilians,” says Danilo Ramos, chairperson of KMP who also described the NTF “as among the biggest stumbling blocks to the resumption of the formal peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.”  

“The NTF keeps collecting activists, peace consultants, and leaders of progressive organizations as political prisoners as if they are prized war trophies. Truth be told, government troops are not gaining significant victories in quelling the people’s resistance against the anti-people Duterte regime. The prevailing tyranny and de facto Martial Law are only pushing the rural population to the path of struggle for reforms and social change,” Ramos added.

KMP also scored the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army under the command of General Pio Dioniso for the unending human rights violations against farmers and peasant communities across Region 8. “Since 2016, a series of intense militarization operations were carried out by the 8th ID and several Philippine Army battalions deployed in rural barangays in Samar and Leyte provinces, particularly in Northern Samar.”

Violations such as aerial bombing, destruction of private properties and livelihood, forced entry, illegal search and seizure, robbery, violation of right to domicile, constant threats, harassment and intimidation, among other violations happen on a daily basis as a result of the EO 70, Memo Order 32 and militarization of Eastern Visayas.

“The 8th ID and all units under it also never ceased to vilify progressive organizations and undermine the legitimate issues and campaigns of poor farmers in Samar and Leyte who are seeking government aid and support for coconut, abaca, and rice production in the region,” Ramos said.

Since the implementation of Memo Order No. 32, more than 500 barangays in Region 8 have been the target of combat operations ironically conducted by Peace and Development Teams, thus affecting more than 300,000 farmers in Eastern Visayas. Four mass evacuations have also resulted from the increased presence of the military occupying public infrastructure and private households within the vicinity of peasant communities. Almost 40 civilians have been killed since 2016 including farmers and barangay and municipal council officers resisting militarization. ###

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