19 arrested in Negros are farmers not rebels, says KMP

THE militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) today condemned the illegal arrest and detention of 19 farmers belonging to the Bukidnon tribe arrested by the military last Thursday in Negros Occidental.

The peasant group issued the statement after reports said that nineteen persons were arrested by the 302nd Infantry Brigade on Thursday because they were allegedly involved in a gun battle with Army troops in Sitio Mahopaho, Barangay (village) San Agustin, Isabela town, Negros Occidental. Isabela town is located 78.2 kilometers south of Bacolod City.

“The 19 farmers illegally arrested by the military belong to the Bukidnon tribe in Negros. It is a desperate and cowardly retaliation against farmers and civilians by the military after suffering a shameful defeat in battle,” says KMP spokesperson Antonio Flores.

Flores said “the arrests happened after a clash between the combined elements of the 303rd , 302nd   Infantry Brigade and scout rangers, and on the other hand, New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas where two soldiers were killed and four were wounded.”

KMP-Negros secretary general Greg Ratin also belied the military’s “malicious statement that the arrested persons were in a remote area where there were no houses.”

“It is the military who demolished and burned the houses of the farmers,” says Ratin.

Ratin said that a fact-finding mission led by Karapatan-Negros, National Federation of Sugar Workers, and KMP-Negros in the area showed that those arrested were farmers belonging to the Bukidnon tribe as confirmed by the Barangay (village) Captain and the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) in the province.

The peasant leader also said “11 of the farmers were released last Friday while the remaining eight were still detained.”

Still in jail and are facing trumped up charges of murder and illegal possession of firearms are Joel Dadlis, Christopher Dadlis, Randy Tubigon, Demas Lindayao, Abraham Lindayao, Roman Lindayao, Randy Lindayao, and Wilhem Lindayao.

“Barangay San Agustin is now heavily militarized and we fear for the safety and security of the farmers there,” added Ratin.

The KMP called for the immediate release from illegal and arbitrary detention of the eight farmers and for the military to vacate the area.

“We demand the Aquino administration to immediately release the eight farmers from illegal detention,” Flores urged.

The KMP also assailed the Aquino administration’s counter-insurgency operation plan “Bayanihan” for the illegal arrests.

“Their illegal arrest is a component of the Aquino administration’s brutal Oplan Bayanihan that targeted farmers and civilians,” Flores said.

“Oplan Bayanihan enjoy the blessings of the haciendero President because it conceals the escalating terror and human rights abuses perpetrated by the military against farmers with the very same anti-peasant peace and development projects by the government,” Flores said referring to the government’s alleged “sell-out of vast tracts of lands and resources to mining firms.”

“We hold Aquino as commander-in-chief of the armed forces responsible for the illegal arrests, detention, and extrajudicial killings of farmers under his administration,” Flores added.

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