State forces harass El Niño researchers in Batangas

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This article is available in Pilipino

Combined forces of the police, military and barangay officials threatened and harassed a team of volunteers conducting an investigation into the impact of El Niño on farmers and residents of Barangay Sampaga, Balayan, Batangas in the early morning of March 24. They stormed the houses in the barangay, banged on windows as barangay officials arbitrarily asked the volunteers for a “permit”. It was carried out deep into the night as residents were resting.

The volunteers are from the Katipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan (KASAMA-TK) and students of the University of the Philippines Los Baños College of Engineering and Agro-industrial Technology. The team said they went to the barangay to find out about the conditions of the sugarcane field farmers amid El Niño and the resulting drought.

In the statement of a KASAMA-TK participant, the house where they were staying was pounded on forcing them to come out. They said they were forbidden to hold their bags, and made to come out and explain their presence in the area.

He further shared that when they came out of the house, lasers of high-caliber guns were aimed at them as they were surrounded by four to five armed policemen. He said, there were many other armed men around the house with unclear intentions.

Officials excuse, they are being searched since for a “permit” for their research required required by an ordinance related to people entering their barangay. When confronted by the volunteers, the officials and state forces could not present any papers or evidence of the ordinance.

In addition, the state forces maliciously mentioned and linked the research to the armed encounter that took place in another barangay in Balayan in December 2023 between the New People’s Army and the military.

The harassment by barangay officials, military and police lasted for an hour. They were even forced to appear in the barangay hall to present their identity.

In Region IV-A (Calabarzon), which includes Batangas, the damage to the agricultural sector has reached ₱7 million. Nationwide, on March 18, ₱1.75 billion in agricultural damage was recorded in eight regions. The drought has drastically affected more than 32,000 hectares of plantations.

AB: State forces harass El Niño researchers in Batangas