Rebels’ wives seek stop to ‘harassment’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/02 October) — Two residents of a remote village here are seeking help to stop the alleged harassment against them by the military, after admitting to the latter that their husbands are members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Lyn-Lyn Genita and Irish Brigole, of Barangay Pandaitan, Paquibato district, aired their plea in a press conference here Monday.

“I told the military that our husbands are indeed NPA members. They kept coming back to us so we would convince our husbands to surrender,” Genita said in the vernacular.

Genita, a member of Paquibato District Peasant Alliance (PADIPA)-Southern Mindanao, said that last Sept. 21, elements of the 69th Infantry Battalion entered her house and threatened her at gunpoint.

“I said, Sir, that’s their right not ours. That’s their principle. We want the military to stop harassing us,” she told reporters.

She added that her two-month pregnant daughter-in-law, who was with her last Sept. 21, shouted and suffered hemorrhage.

“She thought the military was going to kill me,” Genita said, adding her daughter-in-law was still confined in a hospital at the time of the press conference.

She said the military accused her of bringing people to the mountains to join the communist guerillas.

“Why would they (military) harass us when we have nothing to do with our husbands’ decision to join the NPA?” she said.

For her part, Brigole said she was interrogated by the military even after she already admitted that her husband is an NPA member.

“First, they came for census,” she said, “and I asked why they have to do individual census when we already have records in the barangay hall.”

“They said they also have questions related to the underground. I told them my husband is an NPA member),” she said.

“The military asked me to convince my husband to surrender in case he will contact me again,” she added. “I said, Sir, even if you’d kill him, that’s his principle. We have different principles. We are only here taking care of our children. We are civilians,” she said in the vernacular.

Brigole told reporters that after the military’s visit, she had been frequently summoned for interrogation at the barangay hall.

“We wonder why they kept on inviting us to the barangay hall even if we were done talking. What else should we admit when we’ve already said everything?” she said.

Both women said soldiers should be stationed at least 500 meters away from the civilian populace.

Meanwhile, Major Jake Obligado, in a phone interview Monday, denied the allegation that soldiers have been harassing communities, including wives of NPA members.

He said the military visited the families of NPA members to bring good news and offer them economic opportunities, noting that they are not doing it by force.

“They (families) can file complaints,” he said, adding that the families are torn between two options but they are given the right to choose. But he stressed that it would be better for their husbands to surrender.

Rev. Jurie Jaime, spokesperson of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao said in the same press conference that the alleged harassment of families of NPA members violated the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

He cited Part III, Respect for Human Rights, Article 2 with 25 provisions, which states that family members of either soldiers or rebels must be protected from harassment, abuse, threat or involvement in the armed conflict.

He said it is not the job of the military to perform surveys and that the census can be used as a tactic for intelligence work.

The civil military operations and peace and development outreach program under the Oplan Bayanihan, the internal peace and security plan of the Aquino administration, are not the solutions to poverty, he added.

Both parties should adhere to the CARHRIHL, Jaime continued, as they are signatories to the agreement, and what the military allegedly do to the women was a violation and a “big slap to the government.”

He mentioned the grenade bombing in Barangay Fatima in Paquibato that the NPA owned up after a few days.  He said the NPA’s apology and indemnification order for the victims showed the rebel group’s sincere respect for international humanitarian law.

Lawyer Emiliano Cajes Jr., investigation chief at the Commission on Human Rights Region 11, said in a text message: “Sa tanang panahon dili makatarunganon ang manghasi ni bisan kinsa.” (At no time is harassment against anybody justifiable)

He added: “Kung tinuod man kana, maayo nga moanhi ang gipanghasi sa ato opisina aron maaksyunan (If that’s true, it is better for the victims to report to our office so we can act on it.)” [Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews]