Torture, militarization await Catanduanons after SONA rally

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Catanduanons prepare the Chinese banners that call for resumption of peace talks. BicolToday.com PHOTO
Catanduanons prepare the Chinese banners that call for resumption of peace talks. BicolToday.com PHOTO

By Reynard Magtoto

LEGAZPI CITY, 29July2016 (BicolToday.com) – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) troops allegedly tortured a 25-year-old abaca worker from San Miguel, Catanduanes, a day after Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA).

The incident happened on July 26, the same day when delegates from Lakbayan were already traveling via RoRo ship on their way back to the island.

At least 50 Catanduanons joined the Lakbayan or the nationwide People’s Caravan for Just and Lasting Peace to Manila to support the pro-people pronouncements of President Duterte and call for the resumption of peace talks.

According to initial reports by Migrante-Bicol, 24 AFP troops were surveilling the municipality of San Miguel because of the reported presence of New People’s Army (NPA) fighters.

Six soldiers passed by at the victim’s working area around 1:00 pm and asked the victim, who was with his uncle, if he saw an NPA member.

When the victim answered that he saw none, his both hands were tied around his back using a nylon rope, which was also used to tie his neck. He was kicked three times on the back, according to Rudy Suarez, coordinator of Migrante-Bicol who is also the head of Catanduanes delegates.

He added that the young abaca worker’s feet were then tied by a wire to the trunk of a narra tree, while his face was covered with a plastic bag.

“The uncle was forced to say ‘yes’ just to save the nephew from the torture,” Suarez said.

The victim has refused to be identified out of fear, as military soldiers are still roaming in the village.

According to the residents, AFP troops were roaming around the village for surveillance, pretending to be members of NPA.

Suarez added that before the residents reached the island at around 3 p.m. of July 26, they received a call that there were AFP troops looking for them.

“There was a military patrol in the village asking for the list of attendees of the Lakbayan,” he said.

Suarez added that they were hungry and tired after traveling for six days, yet ‘Lakbayanis’ from the province were greeted with threats and fear back home.

On July 25, President Duterte declared a GPH unilateral ceasefire towards the CPP-NPA-NDF to pave way for the resumption of formal peace talks. The CPP has expressed willingness to reciprocate, though it has yet to receive a copy of the operational details of the ceasefire.

In line with Duterte’s declaration, the AFP announced the Suspension of Offensive Military Operations (SOMO) against the CPP-NPA-NDF.

“Commanders must clearly understand the strategic implications of any action so as not to jeopardize the implementation of the SOMO and more importantly the realization of the president’s intent for a lasting peace agreement with the CPP-NPA-NDF,” said the SOMO.

However, the SOMO reiterated that AFP troops shall remain in communities.

For Catanduanons, this means that militarization and harassment still continues, despite the declaration. [BicolToday.com]

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