The Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women strongly condemned President Rodrigo Duterte, AFP General Antonio Parlade, the 59th Infantry Battalion in Pagbilao, Quezon, and the DSWD in Lopez, Quezon for the kidnapping, illegal detention, torture, harassment, and rape of a 15-year-old peasant girl in July to August 2020.

Belle (not her real name) was on her way home with her younger sibling from a sari-sari store when she was forcibly taken by men in a van. Blindfolded, hands tied, and gagged, she was brought to a dark room in a military camp. She was interrogated the next day and forced to give up her mother as supposedly a member of the NPA.

Whenever Belle denied the allegations, she was struck and kicked by the soldiers. She was then illegally detained in the house of one of the CAFGU, Leoven Julita, who was among those who kidnapped and tortured her. Meanwhile, Julita and the soldiers have been forcing Belle to sign papers saying she voluntarily went with Julita and that she did not want to be returned to her mother.

Belle’s mother is a coconut farmer and an active member of Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM), an organization working to unite coconut farmers in Quezon and lobby against unfair prices. In a recent press conference organized by Gabriela Southern Tagalog, Nanay Ofel shared that her family has been subject to harassment by the military since 2007.

In August 2020, Belle was returned to the military camp and raped more than once by Julita. Instead of apprehending the rapist, the uniformed and armed soldiers reminded him to be careful not to leave any bruises as the victim will be turned over to the DSWD.

When Belle was brought to speak with a DSWD representative, the latter instructed her to write a statement against her mother. When she refused, Julita fabricated a statement that Belle’s mother was restricting her movements and forcing her to join the NPA. He then coerced her to sign the statement under threats that the military would kill her family. Instead of caring for the victim, the DSWD advised Belle to stay silent and just obey the soldiers.

Belle was later detained in DSWD Lopez, where she was forced to sleep on the cement floor without a bed or beddings. And when she was finally retrieved by her sister, they were made to sign a statement that said she left home on her own volition and that she did not want to be returned to her parents.

“Belle’s experience is one of the worst cases of human rights violations perpetrated by the military in the countryside. Executive Order 70 and the NTF-ELCAC empower the Philippine Army and CAFGU to abuse, rape, and kill peasant women and children in the government’s mission to crush counterinsurgency and quell the people’s unrest,” said Amihan Chairperson Zenaida Soriano.

“It is even more disturbing that the people could not rely on the DSWD to do its job of protecting our women and children. Instead of taking a stand, they would rather lie and deceive to conspire with the government and army even at the expense of the victim,” Soriano added.

“From the president to Parlade, who is proven to be a ‘torture master’ like former Army Chief Jovito Palparan, to the officers of the 59th IB and DSWD Lopez, everyone must be relieved of their positions which they have only been using to inflict pain and suffering on the people. Officers of the 59th IB and DSWD Lopez must be sacked and jailed for their crimes; so must their bosses, Parlade and Duterte. The latter two should never be allowed to hold any other public office, misuse public funds, and gravely abuse their power,” Soriano said.

“We stand with Belle and her family in their fight for justice. We urge the public to stand with Belle and all victims of state-perpetrated violence against women,” Soriano ended. ###

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