Mindanao rights group: 2 slain ‘NPA fighters’ in Surigao Sur are ‘farmers’
DAVAO CITY— A Mindanao-based rights group on Thursday denounced as “terrorism” the killing of two farmers tagged as communist rebels in San Agustin town, Surigao del Sur last week.
Ryan Amper, spokesperson of Barug Katungod Mindanao, slammed the Philippine Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion (IB) for killing Emel Tejero and Randell Gallego, whom he said were unarmed civilians as they were farmers.
“We condemn the terrorism of the (36th IB) which has carried out vicious military operations since January 24 at Kilometer 16, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga leading to the killing of Caraga farmers Tejero and Gallego,” Amper said in a statement. “The Army has once again resorted to claiming civilians they kill as New People’s Army rebels,” Amper said.
He said the victims were with four other farmers hauling abaca hemp in Barangay Buhisan, San Agustin when fired upon by soldiers “without any provocation.”
Two of the farmers were able to escape while two others were caught, hogtied, and illegally detained by soldiers before being freed the next day, Amper added.
He said distraught relatives who reported their kin as missing eventually found the victims’ bullet-riddled bodies in the custody of a unit of the 36th IB at Sitio Neptune, Barangay Diatagon, in nearby Lianga town.
Maj. Rodulfo Cordero Jr., civil military officer of the 401st Infantry Brigade, said Tejero and Gallego were killed in a brief clash between soldiers and 10 NPA members under the command of one Felizardo Valdez, alias “Ado,” at Sitio Kabulohan, Barangay Buhisan, San Agustin town.
Recovered after the five-minute clash were an M-14 rifle, improvised bombs, and rounds of ammunition, according to Cordero.
A report from the Caraga police regional office said the bodies were turned over by the Army to the San Agustin police on January 29 who then arranged for the provision of two caskets and transportation of the victims’ bodies to their families.
Amper said the recent killings were among the atrocities sown by security forces, “whose relentless military operations had forcibly displaced hundreds of lumad and farmers in Surigao del Sur since December last year.”
Amper said this was aggravated by President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision, with the approval of Congress, to again extend martial in Mindanao for another year since it resulted in “intensified murder of farmers, lumad and Moro civilians.”
“The Duterte government is hell-bent on terrorizing the villages in the Andap Valley (complex) in Caraga region, which is rich in deposits of coal, targeted to supply the needs of recently-approved and already-operating coal-fired power plants,” he said.
But for Brig. General Andres Centino, 401st Infantry Brigade commander, the security operations in the hinterland boundary of Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur provinces since late last year were meant to go after NPA rebels who attacked a militia patrol base in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur in December and took two soldiers and 12 militiamen as captives.
“As of today, our operating troops already figured in a series of encounters with these terrorists. In fact, several enemy hideouts already yielded subversive documents and war materials,” Centino said. /kga
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