Group Urges Cordi Farmers to ‘Bear Arms’ vs Soldiers


A Cordillera-based activist group is urging the region’s farmers to bear arms to defend themselves from government soldiers who, two weeks ago, allegedly murdered a farmer in Lubuagan, Kalinga.

BY ACE ALEGRE
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 26, August 3-9, 2008

BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – A Cordillera-based activist group is urging the region’s farmers to bear arms to defend themselves from government soldiers who, two weeks ago, allegedly murdered a farmer in Lubuagan, Kalinga.

Windel Bolinget, a native from Bontoc, Mountain Province and secretary-general of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) which is the largest group of village-based organizations in the region, called on farmers and tribes in the Cordillera to defend themselves from soldiers who have been allegedly killing them.

Two innocent farmer-hunters have already been killed by soldiers from the 21st and the 77th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) in Kalinga, said Bolinget.

The latest victim was Rocky “Ungki” Aboli, a Barangay Kagawad (village councilman) of Upper Uma in Lubuagan town who was “executed” on July 20. Aboli’s family and villagers said the victim went to his farm in Mt. Bulos, Duyaas, Uma to check on his crops.

On that same day at around 4:15 in the afternoon, villagers heard gunshots from the area where the victim was headed.

Five young villagers were sent to check but were reportedly stopped by soldiers, who claimed that Aboli “is safe and he is being fed.”

The next day, Uma tribesmen went to check on Aboli and found him dead.

Maj. Gen. Melchor Dilodilo, commanding general of the Philippine Army’s 5th Infantry Division, denied that Aboli was summarily executed by his men. “It was a legitimate encounter with the NPA (New People’s Army),” he said. In fact, the officer said, “we recovered a U.S. carbine from him.”

Dilodilo claimed “this is all propaganda aimed at discrediting the military.”

Bolinget said that on April 4  this year, the same soldiers were allegedly involved in a killing of another innocent farmer-hunter in Mabongtot, Lubuagan.

Rey “Aginawang” Logao and another companion were reportedly on their way to get some cows in their pastureland in Mabongtot, to be butchered during a wake of their neighbor, when they met around 15 to 21 soldiers from the 21st and 77th Infantry Battalions based in Bantay, Tabuk City and headed by 2Lt. Aris Apduhan.

Logao was shot when he tried to raise his hands, Bolinget said.

Jude Baggo, an Ifugao native and secretary-general of the Baguio-based Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), strongly denounced what he called as “the on-going atrocities, gross violations of indigenous peoples and collective rights being perpetrated by the 21st and 77th IBPA against innocent civilians in Kalinga.”

The victims, Baggo said, should be given justice and the perpetrators must be punished.

Based on data from the CHRA, at least 13 civilians have been killed in the Cordillera by the military since 2002.  “All these victims were falsely accused as combatants and members or supporters of the NPA,” Baggo said, as he also condemned the “culture of impunity” in the killing of civilians tagged as “NPAs.” Contributed to Bulatlat

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