Masbateños hold camp-out vs. Oplan Bayanihan

Protest Action vs. OPB in Dimasalang. Photo
Protest Action vs. OPB in Dimasalang. Photo

By Reynard Magtoto

MASBATE CITY, 19November2016 ( – Masbateños in Cawayan and Dimasalang hold camp-out until November 20 in its respective municipalities to demand AFP troops to go back to their barracks. Among the provinces in Bicol, Masbate is the highly-militarized area.

The camp-out started on November 15 with the dialogues in its respective local officials. However, “mayors of its respective municipalities also serve as puppets of the state because of their inaction to get rid of these AFP troops. They are just pacifying the victims with conditional cash and reliefs,” Vince Casilihan of Bayan-Bicol.

Vice-Mayor Bibot Condor of Cawayan said he will wait for the decision of their Mayor. They cannot decide to remove the deployed AFP troops since these armies told them that they will stay in their municipality based on the national directive.

The Local Government Unit (LGU)-Cawayan is just pacifying the victims with conditional cash and reliefs according to Masbate People’s Organization (MAPO).

Bayan-Bicol demands the officials especially in Dimasalang and Cayawan to take urgent action to save the victims in the hands of tyranny of deployed AFP troops.

“They must listen to its residents not to these AFP troops. Allowing these AFP troops maneuver in their remote barangays and stay in their public landmarks is blatantly disrespecting the constitution and disservice to its citizens,” Casilihan said. “With these, it only shows that these local officials support the AFPs’ blatant human rights violations and serve as accomplice in sabotaging the peace talks in the country.”

Vice-Mayor Condor of Cawayan promises the protesters to take action on militarized areas. Photo
Vice-Mayor Condor of Cawayan promises the protesters to take action on militarized areas. Photo

Bloody records of Masbate

Aquino regime completed its term as president on June 30, 2016 with a bloody record of violating human rights and the rights of citizens. In US-Aquino regime’s resumption of Oplan Bantay Laya II and implementation of Oplan Bayanihan, Masbate has 53 documented incidents, 164 different kinds of human rights violations, 591 victims have been documented, 12 victims of extrajudicial killings and other gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law based on its July 2010 to June 18, 2016 data.

Few days after the elections on May 9, 2016, President Duterte declared that its administration was open to restore peace talks between the government (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and promised to release all political prisoners.

Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire in its first State of the Nation Address (SONA) that made Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) and Suspension of Police Operations (SOPO) possible “but were just hypocritical being implemented by the AFP and PNP” according to Casilihan.

Incidents of human rights violations continue that results to political killings and other human rights violations. The ongoing military operations of the AFP in Masbate happens despite the declaration of GRP unilateral ceasefire.

Casilihan added that Oplan Bayanihan had brought more oppression to the civilian population and aimed at obliterating the struggle for genuine reforms to achieve more social services and against corruption. This AFP style of community organizing is just a deception since it does not address the root causes of the problem why people are poor and oppressed.

Ticao Island, since the latter part of 2014 until today is even more intensified military attacks on former villages and towns covered by CPDT-OPB last year and the first half of 2016. From October 12, 2016 to the present, troops of Charlie Coy, 9IB PA led by 1Lt. Flores are wreaking havoc again in Ticao Island specifically in the town of Monreal in the villages of Rizal, Real, Cantorna, Togoron, Maglambong, Mac Arthur and Sto Niño.

According to a resident, the military based in Barangay Sto Niño gathered young people to teach karate and asked concurrent acquaintances about NPAs. Permitting these children to stay in school after school hours in the village where the soldiers are also basing.

The state deployed the combined troops of the 31st IB PA Alpha Coy, 9th IB PA troops from the 9th Infantry Bn CMO PA based in Pili, Camarines Sur in the town of Dimasalang and Cawayan. Began military operations in these areas on October 6, 2015 and continues until today.

In the town of Dimasalang, military operations are focused in villages of Mambog, Buenaflor, Cabanoyoan, Boracan, and Cabrera while the focus military operations in the municipality of Cawayan were in barangays Libertad, Cabungahan, Calapayan, Villa Hermosa, Tuburan and Madbad.

AFP troops deployed in Cawayan Plaza. Photo
AFP troops deployed in Cawayan Plaza. Photo

Threatening 4Ps beneficiaries, students

At present, around 100 AFP troops of 31st IBPA are deployed in barangays Boracan, Mambog, Buenaflor, Cabrera and Cabanayuan. These armies came dated October 8, 2016 and are staying in barangay halls, day care centers, waiting sheds and plaza.

According to 4Ps beneficiary Jonah Halayahay, the residents are scared since these armies are interrogating the residents and looking for NPA members.

The deployed AFP troops even threatened the 4Ps beneficiaries. “Kapag pumunta daw kami ng rally tatanggalin kami sa 4Ps,” said Halayahay. She added that these armies are conducting feeding program in their school.

However, many students are now not attending their classes because many are scared of the AFP troops according to Barangay Councilor Geraldine Codera.

The teachers in barangay Cabrera are begging the barangay officials to encourage their parents to send their students in school.

camp-out in Dimasalang. Photo
camp-out in Dimasalang. Photo

As of November 15, only few students are attending classes:
Grade 5 and 6 (combined in one room) – 4 students
Grade 4 – 4 students
Grade 3 – 2 students
Grade 2 – 2 students
Grade 1 – 2 students
Kinder – no more students attending their classes

Already more than 2 weeks since students in militarized barangays are no longer attending classes. Teachers told the barangay officials that if the students will not return in schooling before January, they will not graduate.

From October 11 to November 7, the AFP troops are deployed in barangays. These AFP troops are now staying in Gymnasium near Cawayan Municipality at present. Vice-Mayor Condor decided to transfer the protesters in Sports Complex away from the gymnasium to avoid commotion.

However the protesters insisted to camp-out in front of municipal hall to demand their calls.

“Oplan Bayanihan ever since is just a front of AFP troops to maneuver themselves in harassing the people, causing fear and human rights violations in the region. Let us not be deceived with this counter-insurgency program of the state. Imprints of martial law will continue if we, Bicolanos, will not take stand to demand for justice against military operations,” Casilihan said. []

Petition signing hold in Cawayan camp-out. Photo
Petition signing hold in Cawayan camp-out. Photo


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.