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Army in denial, afraid to sign MOA

Press Release

October 22, 2009

TACLOBAN CITY  –  Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas lambasts 8th Infantry Division’s denial that Army’s 14th Infantry Battalion committed human rights violations in interior barangays of Gen. Mc Arthur, Eastern Samar, as claimed by farmers from the said town in a dialogue between the army and farmers last October 5, 2009.

“Farmers will not go through all the efforts in initiating a dialogue between them and the military and mobilizing 600 farmers if their rights were not violated and if they were not in the right reason,” said Flor Chantal Eco, Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas’ Secretary General in a statement today. “Farmers are far more credible than the armed forces.”

She furthered that the military has repeatedly called that if there are abuses done by the military, the people should not be afraid to report it to them, but now that the farmers themselves made the move to expose the issue, they’re denying the allegations and refuses to take action.

“The army repeatedly denied the farmers’ allegations that the 14th IB committed violations saying that the violations were committed by the 62nd IB who formerly operated in the area. Now they’re admitting that there were indeed violations committed by the army, but have they addressed the issue?” added Eco.

During the dialogue, farmers testified that the 14th IB harasses residents in the barangays and refuses to follow the barangays rules that they should sign in the barangay’s log book so they will be able to identify the soldiers whenever they operate in barangays. The farmers also accused the soldiers of posing as members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Moreover, the army kept insisting that the Mayor of the town doesn’t know the farmers who initiated the dialogue. “Common sense tells us that the Mayor knows the people who initiated the dialogue because he facilitated it, why would he facilitate it if he doesn’t know them? The farmers, including barangay officials of the said town consulted him several times before the dialogue,” said Eco.

“Now, if they’re really promoting human rights, follows protocols, why didn’t they sign the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) presented by the farmers? The farmers just wanted a written agreement that the army that operating in their town will not commit any human rights violations, what are they afraid of? Easier prosecution thru the MOA because there is a big possibility that they will not comply?” Eco ended.