Correspondence Heightening militarization in South Quezon-Bondoc Peninsula

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The masses of coconut farmers in the towns of the third and fourth district of Quezon daily face military intimidation and violence. They are victims of various types of human rights violations perpetrated behind the veil of the “war against terrorism.”

The 85th IB, 59th IB, 201st IBde, 2nd ID under the Southern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are conducting all-out focused military operations and Retooled Community Support Program (RCSP). These are combined with the E-CLIP (Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program) which forces people to “surrender” and which tramples on human rights of peasants in Quezon.

According to data gathered, there were 28,292 cases of human rights violations in the province at the end of Duterte’s term. Most of these were recorded in February 2021 when the 85th IB dropped bombs towns of San Narciso, Buenavista and Catanauan causing widespread terror among the people.

From July to October this year, the military again shattered the peace and intensified operation in communities it suspect of serving as base of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Just last month, brutish and ill-mannered soldiers of the 85th IB entered a resident’s home to threaten him for allegedly being a supporter of the people’s army. The resident was angry saying soldiers treated him worse than a criminal.

Meanwhile, soldiers pursued at tried to arrest Julius Lacaba, a coconut farm-worker in Barangay Villa Mendoza, Gumaca, last October 26. Lacaba is being accused of being an NPA commander who brings a grenade to his coconut farm.

Bullying and coercion

As in other parts of the country, the AFP repeatedly forced civilians in Quezon to surrender. In Barangay Abuyon, San Narciso town, 100 farmers were forced to “surrender” and made to pledge on September 22 in exchange for a small relief pack and some food.

In the town of Lopez, 29 farmers in Barangay Jongo and San Isidro was made to “surrender” for the third time on October 1. Among them were farmers who had previously “surrendered” and had dinner with Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang in 2018. They were also paraded as “surrenderees” in September 2021, with 66 other farmers. Meanwhile, 105 farmers in Barangay Ilayang Ilog A were forced to join an organization on October 25. Military operations began in these barangays on September 20.

In Barangay San Francisco B, soldiers incessantly went house-to-house to summon peasants. According to initial information, at least 1,030 were made to “surrender” in the said village since 2021.

Peppered with military camps

Of the 40 military camps across the South Quezon-Bondoc Peninsula, 14 are in the town of Lopez. These camps are fully supported by Mayor Rachel Ubana, an active NTF-Elcac agent. Lopez, in the province’s fourth district, can be considered a focal point of human rights violations.

The 85th IB has used its Ugnayan Caravan to cover communities in Quezon. Behind the veil of “providing service,” soldiers are like rampaging dogs openly sniffing around farmers villages.

Since August, at least six barangays have been pestered by the Ugnayan Caravan in the towns of Gumaca, Lopez, Catanauan and San Narciso. In 2021, this was found to be one of the reasons for the spread of Covid-19 in Barangay San Jose, Macalelon.

Heightening militarization in South Quezon-Bondoc Peninsula