Two Peasant Organizers in Bataan Missing


Two peasant organizers in Bataan province have been missing, Desaperacidos (Families of Desaparecidos for Justice) disclosed.

The group said suspected military men abducted Nelson Balmaña on Sept. 21 and Florencia Espiritu on Sept. 22. Both are organizers of the Sto. Niño Lubao Farmers’ Association (SLFA). The victims have been organizing peasants from Lubao, Pampanga, an adjacent barangay (village) to Hermosa, Bataan.

Desaperacidos’ account said the two victims were supposed to meet on Sept. 21 at a house in Purok 2, Brgy. Daan Bago, Dinalupihan in Bataan, but Nelson sent a text message to Florencia that he could not make it and would meet her the following day instead.

The next day, Florencia left the house at 10:30 am and was boarding a tricycle, when at least six armed men believed to be elements of the 24th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army took her and forced her into a white L300 FB Mitsubishi.  Four of the men were armed with .45 caliber pistols, while one carried an armalite.

The abductors fled towards the direction of Pampanga-Metro-Manila.  After Florencia’s abduction, witnesses said a man fitting Nelson’s description was abducted at 5 p.m.the day before at the same spot, and was taken by the same getaway vehicle.

Desaperacidos said the recent abductions placed to 199 the number of the disappeared under the Arroyo regime

On Sept. 17, another victim, James Balao of the Cordillera People’s Alliance disappeared in Baguio City.  James left his home in Fairview, Baguio City to go to La Trinidad, Benguet at 7am and was not heard of since.

Mary Guy Portajada, spokesperson of Desaperacidos, revealed that three have been abducted in a just six days.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines clearly shows that it is untouchable, and continues to carry out enforced disappearances, even after the Court of Appeals had ruled that it is guilty of the disappearance of Sherlyn Cadapan, Karen Empeño and Manuel Meriño,” said Portajada.

Another victim, Elmer dela Cruz was reported missing on August 23 in Hermosa, Bataan.  He is still missing as of this writing.

Meanwhile, in another statement, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) condemned the recent abductions.

Willy Marbella, KMP deputy secretary general for internal affairs, hit the military for ‘wreaking havoc on the peasant movement.’  “After forcibly disappearing our Bulacan leader-organizer Jonas Burgos, our National Council member Nilo Arado, framing up Tagaytay 5 and our deputy secretary general for external affairs Randall Echanis, here they go again, abducting our organizers in Bataan,” said Marbella.

Marbella said the ‘counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya II (Operation Freedom Watch II) has been targeting the legal democratic movement, particularly, the peasant movement.’

Portajada called on the people to be vigilant, as ‘this government does not sleep as it commits human rights violations.’ “Impunity reigns as Gloria Arroyo and her military remain unpunished for its crimes,” she said. (Bulatlat)

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