Negros farmers picket Comelec

MEMBERS of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Negros (KMP-Negros) today picketed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) calling for the disqualification of the Abang Lingkod party-list group which they described as a party-list group of the government-funded Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) and big landlords.
“Abang Lingkod’s attempt to join the party-list elections is an outright mockery of the party-list system,” says KMP –Negros secretary general Greg Ratin.

Ratin called on the Comelec to immediately deny the petition for registration of Abang Lingkod whose first nominee is Joseph Stephen Paduano also known as Carapali Lualhati, the national commander of the RPA-ABB. The RPA-ABB is engaged in peace negotiations with the government.

“It is totally revolting that the RPA –ABB through the pseudo party-list Abang Lingkod claims to be farmers representative when the truth is they have evolved into a bandit group and private army of landlords especially in areas where agrarian disputes exists, ” says Ratin.

He said “landlords hired members of the RPA-ABB as part of their security forces to coerce protesting farmworkers, peasants and women, especially in areas where there are land disputes and the masses are struggling for genuine agrarian reform.”

“Aside from landlords, the RPA-ABB stands as hired guns by local politicos in Negros as highlighted by the extrajudicial killing of Judge Henry Arles last April,” Ratin said.

Recent reports said a witness, who was identified only as “Honeybee” executed an affidavit, claiming that Rustom Puro, a ranking member of the RPA-ABB and the husband of her cousin, told her that he and Marvin Salve were contracted by the group of vice governor Genaro Alvarez, his son Ilog Mayor John Paul Alvarez and Tabujara to assassinate Arles.

Last July, KMP-National and the rights group Karapatan filed a disqualification complaint against Abang Lingkod Partylist before the Comelec main office. The complaint also cited that Paduano, through his group RPA-ABB, was a recipient of “funding from the government and big landlords in Negros, hence a ground for removal and/or cancellation of Abang Lingkod’s registration with this Honorable Commission.”

According to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), a total of P267 million of government funds have already been released since the 1990s to the RPA-ABB. For 2012, more than P90 million have been allotted for the RPA-ABB. In Negros Occidental, the provincial government and the RPA-ABB forged a memorandum of agreement, stipulating that P31 million of the P91 million will be released in order to fund “developmental projects.”

The RPA-ABB surrendered to the government in the middle of the 1990s during the administration of President Joseph Estrada. Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., uncle of current President Benigno “Noynoy” C. Aquino III, served as witness to the peace agreement and eventually hired members of RPA-ABB as part of his security forces in Negros Island.

The RPA-ABB members were formally integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. They served as a force multiplier and member of the special Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit in the military’s counter-insurgency operations.

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