8th ID’s military rule over Samar
The iron fist rule of the 8th ID of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) prevails in the remote barangays of Samar. Away from public and media scrutiny, they carry out secret abductions, detention, imprisoning civilians in their communities and various forms of military abuses. Military units completely subjugate civilian authorities.
Abduction and extrajudicial detention
There are at least 10 victims of abduction secretly being detained by the 8th ID at its camp in Barangay Maulong, Catbalogan, Samar since last year. They remain imprisoned, denied family visits legal representation, and subjected to emotional, physical and mental torture by butcher soldiers.
Among the victims are Mariel Rebato and Monica Ogacho, both new mothers, together with their infants. Imprisoned with them in the camp are Marygrace Tambis Bicina, Renato Chokoy Rufo and three others also abducted by the military in March. Some of them were arrested from their rented home in Calbayog City as early as December 2022.
The revolutionary movement discovered their situation when some victims were temporarily released and made to report to the NPA. Among those released were four Red fighters ordered to serve as military agents.
Military control over civilian lives
In six towns in Northern Samar, the villages are like prisons guarded by soldiers.
In Silvino Lobos, soldiers control the entry and exit of residents in every village. Anyone who goes to farm or to work signs the logbook and anyone outside who failed to log is arrested. The duration of their stay outside is limited.
In April, Barangay Senonogan de Tubang, Silvino Lobos was bombed five times from the air and strafed. Bombardment was once carried out five times in a single day, using 10 rockets, together with four cannon firings and strafing. Three farmers were directly shot at by soldiers. Apart from this, military crimes such as theft of chickens and agricultural tools, damaging of houses, destruction of crops, and illegal detention are widespread.
The situation is almost similar in the towns of Las Navas and Catubig where the 3rd IB, 20th IB and 19th IB are encamped. Everything farmers bring to the field are meticulously monitored. In some villages, bringing out even a can of rice is prohibited unless cooked and packed.
In Mapanas, Gamay and Palapag, the 74th IB’s military rule is far more repressive. Soldiers mandate farmers to list down their exact destinations and photograph them. They forbid bringing of uncooked rice to the farms and sardines should be uncanned and packed. They arbitrarily enforce lockdowns on false claims of a Covid-19 breakout.
At night, soldiers inspect every house to count the people inside. If the number is inconsistent, barangay officials are held liable. Villagers are surveilled and eavesdropped in their homes. Small stores are required to list every item sold, for monitoring.
Five years of MO 32
In the past five years, military violence has intensified in Eastern Visayas. Using Memorandum No. 32, four battalions were deployed to the region between December 2022 and February to “defeat” the “remaining four active guerrilla fronts” in the northern part of Samar. These add to the three brigades of the 8th ID currently led by Maj. Gen. Camilo Z. Ligayo.
In fact, Memorandum 32 first imposed by the Duterte regime on November 22, 2018 is no longer valid. The “state of national emergency” in Mindanao that served as its basis has already been lifted on July 27.