KMU slams AFP over murder of activist-farmer’s sister, rights violations in ComVal
TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte – The militant Kilusang Mayo Uno in Southern Mindanao region slammed the military on Wednesday, for the spate of killings and human rights violations in Compostela Valley, including Tuesday’smurder of a sister of an activist-farmer there.
The military has not commented on allegations that suspected security forces were behind the killing of Jennifer Villasante Erbito in Compostela town.
However, it said the KMU had no basis to accuse soldiers of attacking civilian communities in Pantukan and Mabini towns and killing a miner in the process.
The 43-year-old Erbito was tending her banana cue stall at Purok 12 in Barangay Poblacion when shot by a man around 11:30 a.m., the police said.
Chief Insp. Kristopher Sabsal, Compostela police station chief, said cops have started investigating the killing. He has also confirmed Erbito’s sister is a member of the militant Compostela Farmers’ Association (CFA).
Amado Albaciente, Erbito’s common-law husband said his live-in partner had no known enemies. He added she was a coordinator for the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in their community and as far as he knew, she did not encounter any problem in that work.
“We condemn the latest killings attributed to this blood-thirsty US-Aquino regime that kills at will and with impunity in the name of big corporate mining and agricultural interests,” said KMU chair Carlo Olalo, adding that Erbito’s killing came just days after the murder of an anti-mining activist and community leader Teresita Navacilla in Pantukan town.
Rights group Karapatan has accused the military of killing Navacilla to silence her strong opposition to the entry of the Filipino-Canadian mining firm, Nadecor-St. Augustine, in Kingking village, Pantukan, but the mining firm denied the allegations, calling these “baseless and mere fabrication.”
“Navacilla was an effectual liaison between the (firm) and the small-scale miners and was a recipient of various corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects of the company,” the mining firm said in a statement.
But Olalo said: “Compostela Valley is a resource-rich province targeted for plunder by foreign corporations in connivance with local capitalists, landlords and politicians. As a result, the province is marred by heavy military presence creating a climate oppressive to people’s democratic rights, including their right to organize and form unions and associations. Military repression of workers’ rights in Compostela Valley is not new and sadly, has not stopped.”
Hanimay Suazo, spokesperson of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao, said soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 46th and 71st Infantry Battalions also conducted indiscriminate firing and bombings in mining and civilian communities in Mabini and Pantukan towns also on Tuesday, resulting in the death of a small-scale miner and the wounding of several civilians.
Suazo said soldiers also fired rifle grenades toward civilian communities in Post 4, Napnapan village, Pantukan town, damaging a house and a chapel, and soldiers allegedly ordered a stop to the mining operations.
But the military on Wednesday said an encounter had ensued between Army troops and New People’s Army rebels in Pantukan, resulting in the death of an alleged rebel identified as Ronel Paas alias Dondon, 35; and the wounding of several others, among them a 14-year old identified as Dong.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, public affairs chief of the army’s 10th Infantry Division, said Corporal Boskie Carcellar was also wounded following an encounter at Tagdangua village.
“The soldiers were running after a group of rebels led by alias Raden, who were responsible for the series of atrocities in Pantukan when the troops chanced upon some 20 rebels, triggering a 20-minute firefight,” said Batchar.
An assault rifle believed to be left behind by the fleeing rebels was recovered at the encounter site, the military official said.
He said some of the rebels who fled in the thick of battle sought refuge inside the mining pits and were pursued by soldiers but the government troops could not catch up with the insurgents as the tunnels were extensive and narrow.
Last week, three soldiers, including a young lieutenant, were killed in two clashes between rebels and the 46th IB troops in Pantukan. Two soldiers were also hurt.
Batchar said “the Army has been coordinating with the Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to look into the case of alias Dong, who can be considered as a child-warrior.” SFM
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