COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
18 JULY 2008
CHR TO SCHEDULE AN URGENT DIALOGUE WITH DAR SECRETARY AND TOP LEVEL AFP, PNP OFFICIALS TO STOP THE KILLINGS, CONTINUING HARASSMENTS AND THREATS IN MASBATE
In a bid to immediately address the reported harassments, killings and other forms of violence in Tikao Island in the province of Masbate, Chairperson Leila M. De Lima is set to schedule a top level dialogue-meeting at the soonest possible time with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and top ranking officials of the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
This is the Chairperson’s response to the alarming situation in Masbate as reported to her in a dialogue with former Congressman Loreta “Eta” Rosales, peasant leader and tenants from Hacienda Batuan. Some tenants tearfully asked the Chairperson to do something about their plight.
“ Bukod po sa patayan sa aming lugar, natatakot po kami sa aming kalagayan dahil may mga armadong mga tao na nagpupunta sa aming lugar sa araw man o sa gabi. May mga na-demolish na nga ho na bahay kahit walang Court order at walang permiso kahit kanino,” middle-aged woman said in between sobs.
According to the group, two members of the Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Hacienda Batuan identified as Rene Llabres and Junrie Pagaspas were found dead last July 6, 2008. The suspects are believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA). The occupant added that three weeks prior to the killing, the family of one of the slain militant organizer, Rene Llabres received death threats on a crumpled, piece of cardboard scribbled in what looks like a charcoal with inscriptions in the local Masbate dialect which read: “Boy, is a warning cegorohin mo lang na hindi maloko ang nasagasaan mo, “ Five or six days after the internment of the dead, another letter written in an Intermediate pad paper was found stuck to the resident’s nipa hut with another threat to wit “Warning Boy: Walang matitira sa inyong magkakapated lahat kayo”.
These continuous threats, warnings and the presence of heavily-armed men in the neighborhood made the residents in Masbate fear for their own lives, the groups added.
As concrete actions, Chairperson De Lima immediately enumerated pro-active steps to temporarily contain the violence in the area. First, she directed the Commission’s Legal Division to issue a Memorandum to CHR Region V Director Atty. Pelagio Senar and ask him to submit a report regarding the matter. She also said that she will send a letter and coordinate with the Governor of Masbate and the PNP Regional Director to `secure’ the place for the benefit of the frightened residents.
Chairperson De Lima also explained that she will call the attention of the DAR Secretary since those who were killed were members of the Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Hacienda Batuan. Since 2005, the “Samahan” has petitioned the DAR to be covered by the agrarian reform program.
“In this situation, it is beyond the legalities of the issues (killings, harassments, violence) that we are after. At stake here is the basic human rights issues of the residents there, which is the primordial consideration in the context of human rights,” the articulate CHR head emphatically said.
In the meantime, the independent constitutional body’s head also assured the widows of the deceased men that they are eligible to avail of the financial assistance from the CHR Assistance Visitorial Office after completion of certain requirements. xxx