Military tags churchmen as NPA members

BAGUIO CITY (May 12) — Even the church is not safe from the recent military occupation at the tri-boundary of Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur provinces.

In a press conference of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance at the Cordillera Peoples Alliance office, two churchmen professed they were allegedly tagged by the military as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

During the military operation at the tri-boundary, Deacon Pedro Dungoc from Pananuman, Tubo, Abra and Father Mario Oplawan from Lamag, Quirino, Ilocos Sur said military men were telling the villagers that they are members of the NPA and that they have guns hidden in the church.

“While I was away, the military entered the church without any permission searching for weapons,” Oplawan said.

According to Oplawan, the military was making stories to cause fear on the people and to make the people mad at the church. The military were allegedly telling the people of Lamag that he (Oplawan) and his sakristan (assistant) are members of the NPA.

Oplawan denied being a member of the NPA and maintained he does not have any weapons such as a gun. He said, “The church is against the use of bombs and guns.”

“The military allegedly found a gun among my personal things,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dungoc was interrogated by the military during the military operation in Pananuman. The military asked him questions such as “where does the fund of the church come from” and “what is the orientation of the church.”

According to Dungoc, the military was trying to tell him that he should admit that he is a member of the NPA.

“They intimidate us by visiting us everyday. They threaten us by telling that we are members of NPA,” Dungoc added.

Several activities by the church were disrupted during the military operation in the said places. One project such as the fish pond for the community was about to be finished when the military came and built there camp in the same place according to Dungoc.

“They do not respect even the church. They came without any notice or permission by the villagers and then they tag us as NPAs,” Dungoc added.

Since the military pulled out its troops last April, Pananuman is still recovering from the severe damage of their crops. Several human rights violations such as forced entry into the villagers’ houses, threats to their lives, aerial bombings over the agricultural fields and stealing of agricultural animals were recorded by the Indigenous Peoples Rights Monitor. # John Eric B. Escalante for NORDIS

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