Groups want release of 11 Negros villagers
ILOILO CITY, Philippines —Farmers’ and human rights groups on Monday called for the release of 11 villagers who were arrested during the military-backed police operations in Negros Oriental province on March 30 where 14 farmers were gunned down.
The call came more than two weeks since the arrests in Canlaon City and Manjuyod and Santa Catalina towns in Negros Oriental. One of those arrested had posted bail.
The human rights group Karapatan said it had yet to determine the identities and status of seven villagers who were arrested, due to the difficulty in accessing the communities where the operations were conducted.
“We conducted a five-day fact-finding mission but we still could not cover all the areas due to continued police and military operations. The Philippine National Police has not released the identities of those arrested,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, said in a text message to the Inquirer.
The PNP had said those killed and arrested were subjects of search warrants for illegal possession of firearms and were either members or supporters of the New People’s Army who were responsible for attacks against policemen and soldiers in Negros Oriental.
It also said the 14 farmers killed during the operations fought back when they were served their respective warrants.
The relatives of the farmers denied the allegations.
Members of a fact-finding mission had interviewed the relatives, who accused the police of summarily executing the 14 farmers. The families also questioned the validity of the search warrants, they said.
Lawyer Angelo Karlo Guillen of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) in Panay said the fact-finding team had interviewed Corazon Javier, Azucena Garubat, Armogena Caballero and Geraldine Pelobello of Canlaon City, and Nestor Kadusale of Manjuyod. Kadusale had posted bail.
Javier, chair of the Canlaon chapter of the women’s group Gabriela, was served a search warrant issued by the Cebu City Regional Trial Court for a .45-caliber pistol, but no such weapon was recovered, Guillen said.
Instead, the raiding team allegedly seized from Javier a hand grenade and a revolver with four bullets.
The search warrant issued against Garubat, coordinator of the party-list group Anakpawis, was also for a .45-caliber pistol but the police reported to have recovered a rifle grenade, Guillen said.
Garubat is the sister of Edgardo and Ismael Avelino, who were among those killed in the operations.
Guillen said Pelobello was not the subject of any warrant but was arrested after witnessing policemen bringing out Genes Palmares from his house. Palmares was shot dead by the raiding team.
NUPL asked the PNP to release the identities of the police and military personnel involved in the operations as well as those who had prior knowledge about the raids.
The human rights and farmers’ groups also asked the release of copies of “all the search warrants used during the operations, as well as documents used by the PNP to apply for and secure those warrants.”
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