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Dumaguete City, PhilippinesThursday, February 10, 2011
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Soldiers abuse
civilians anew

A series of human rights incidents have been recorded anew by a Karapatan team in the hinterlands of Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental, a press statement from the group said.

Eyewitness’ accounts indicate the brutality of soldiers in their engagement with civilians firmly opposed to a military presence in the city, it said.

The alleged human rights offenses perpetrated by the 11th Infantry Battalion soldiers under the command of Col. Ramil Bitong happened in the advent of the new counter insurgency campaign “Oplan Bayanihan” in January, the Karapatan press release said.

Even the community school buildings in Laos, Binobohan, were not spared as soldiers broke in  one of the rooms without the knowledge of the teachers or any barangay official, the statement said.

The army has repeatedly denied the accusations of Karapatan.

Many of the human rights victims were women. In Binonohan, Guihulngan. Welma Rafols a member of the progressive Panaghugpong sa Maguuma sa Binobohan-KAUGMAON-KMP was investigated at gunpoint while her young children stood watching, Karapatan said.

Vilma Tormes of Agpapatao, Binobohan, also complained to Karapatan that she was forced to strip off her blouse by same soldiers when she denied allegations that she is a New People’s Army informer. She was also threatened to be  killed the next time they chance upon her, the statement said.

Another farmer and his 15-year-old nephew were also physically assaulted when they crossed paths with the soldiers. His bolo and the boy’s air gun were also confiscated, Karapatan said.

Illegal searches were rampant in barangays Binobohan, Trinidad, Tacpao and Maniac. Soldiers were reported to just barge into the houses and trample on  belongings in the pretext of looking for NPA rebels or their weapons, the fact-finding report of the group further claimed.

It is deplorable that the army still refuses to respect the human rights of the very civilians they have sworn to protect. The 11th IB, in particular, has practically made it a policy to assault the famers in Guihulngan without the slightest hint of restraint, the press release said.

Karapatan demands the 11th IB finally end the suffering of the peasants in Guihulngan City. Their presence is not needed in the hinterlands of that city, as they only bring turmoil to the community and endanger civilian lives, the statement said.  

Karapatan vowed to monitor military movements in Guihulngan City and elsewhere in the province, the statement added.*



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