The National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) condemned the continuing military operations in farming communities resulting to human rights violations against farmers and their families amid COVID-19 lockdown.

On April 15 at around 6:30 am, the home of Quintin Palay and other members of the kin in Sitio Odiong, Barangay Bandila, Toboso, Negros Occidental was ransacked by the joint forces of the 79th IB of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Special Action Force. 

Reports from the Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights (NNAHRA) said that a 12-year old minor fainted due to intense pressure after military forces threatened and interrogated the child who was in the house while other family members were working on the fields.

NNAHRA reported that military operations have continued in the rural areas of Escalante City, Calatrava and Toboso despite the province-wide lockdown, forcing civilians and farmers to surrender as members of NPA as well as break up their cooperatives and give their lands back to the landlords.

On April 13, farmer Nomeriano Fuerte was illegally arrested by elements of the 85th IBPA while he was at the house of feloow farmer Barok Perlas in Sitio Tagbakin, Barangay Magsaysay, General Luna in Quezon. He was forcibly taken to the battalion camp in San Nicolas in Macalelon, Quezon without presenting any warrant.

On April 14, Fuerte’s wife, Amalia, was “invited” by soldiers and was brought to the military camp to see her husband where they were told to “change their ways and go back to the folds of the government”. Fuerte was later on presented by the 85th IBPA as an NPA leader surenderee.

Military operations persist in the rural areas of Lopez, Catanauan, Macalelon, Unisan, Agdangan, Padre Burgos, and Atimonan despite the ongoing lockdown, forcing residents to admit as members of the NPA.

“It is enraging that farmers and their families are suffering from poverty and hunger worsened by the impact of COVID-19 lockdown and the delayed delivery of assistance from the government. The continuing red-tagging, threats and harassment farmers experience at the hands of military forces add to the distress and anxiety they go through,” Amihan national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.

“It seems that military forces are taking advantage of the situation to continue with their atrocious activities. It is clear that farmers’ welfare has never been a priority for this government. With the Martial Law threats that President Duterte declared in his previous statement, farmers and civilians should brace for more human rights abuses amid COVID-19 battle,” Soriano added.

“In these trying times, what the farmers need is support and assistance to help them survive the pandemic. Hindi militarisasyon ang sagot sa kumakalam na sikmura at panganib na dala ng virus. Military forces should be immediately pulled out from farming communities and ensure that farmers’ rights be upheld and respected,” Soriano ended. ###

Graphics by MAKÔ Collective, a group of anonymous artists producing zines to speak out against Duterte’s oppressive regime.

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