Around 100 delegates from the Church, human rights groups, lawyers groups, and people’s organizations from Metro Manila, Baguio City, Ilocos, and Cagayan Valley joined a solidarity and probe mission in Lacub, Abra to investigate the reported state-sponsored human rights violations in the area.
The solidarity mission was conducted upon the request of residents of Lacub, Abra after a series of human rights violations were said to be committed by the military against the civilian population in its recent operations in the town. On September 4 and 5, the 41st Infantry Battalion under the Northern Luzon Command conducted operations that led to the death of two civilians and seven members of the New People’s Army (NPA). The series of clashes that commenced September 6 and ended on September 6 left two more unnamed NPA members killed.
The fact-finding mission conducted in Lacub on September 8 and 9 yielded findings of extrajudicial killings, grave coercion, illegal detention, use of civilians as human shields and guides in the conduct of the military operations, indiscriminate firing, and serious disruption of life in the community.
On Wednesday, October 1, human rights group Karapatan, members of the church, and people’s organizations, staged protest action in front of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in Ortigas. Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay, in a statement said that the Aquino government should resume the peace talks with the National Democratic Front instead of perpetrating rights violations against the residents of Lacub, Abra and infringing the International Humanitarian Law.
The Philippines is a signatory of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which states that even in times of war, rights of civilians, and even those of conflicting parties, must be upheld.
The autopsy reports of Recca Noelle Monte, one of the NPA casualties, revealed that she sustained no gunshot wound but her skull was like a “crushed eggshell.” Other autopsy reports also revealed signs of degrading treatment other than gunshots such as torture and mutilation.
Palabay further notes that the same military unit was also responsible for the military operations on October 10, 2011, which resulted to the death of eight members of the NPA in Tineg, Abra. The bodies of the eight evidenced strong indications of inhumane treatment. They are also said to be responsible for the death of Baay-Licuan, Abra residents Eddie Ligiw, and his sons Freddie and Licuben. The bodies of the Ligiw family were found bound and gagged near their hut on March 7, 2014. The Ligiws were farmers and small-scale miners.
Families of the slain NPA members Robert Beyyao and Recca Noelle Monte from Kalinga, and Brandon Magrana from Mountain Province, also joined the solidarity mission. The families talked to members of the communities to learn about the circumstances surrounding the death of their relatives. They also visited the site where their loved ones were killed in Barangay Guinguinabang.
The delegation was divided into three teams and sent off to the villages of Guinguinabang, Talampak, and Lacub town proper where psychosocial therapy and medical services; focused-group discussions and documentation; and tributes to slain community members were conducted.
The delegates have asked the local government for an audience to inquire on the actions it has taken on the petition of the residents of villages of Lacub calling for the military to pull-out of their communities as early as 2011. Another of their concerns is a military detachment based in between Bantugo Elementary and High School. However, both the mayor and vice mayor are out of Lacub according to members of the municipal council.
The Philippine Army 41st battalion recovered 15 firearms, including M653 rifles, M14 rifle, M16 rifles, AK47, Garand and Cal .45 Pistol. Members of the Battalion received awards on September 13 for their campaign against insurgency in Abra.
An ecumenical service and a community forum in Lacub town are among the activities that capped off the mission hosted by Tulbek (Timpuyog dagiti ti Umili iti Lacub).