Soldiers harassed rights workers in Bohol, Philippines

To Prevent Probe on Human Rights Violations

On October 21, 2007, at about 11:30-12AM, Philippine Army troops and officials interdicted human rights personnel who were out to investigate reported military abuses in Brgy. Rizal, Batuan town, Bohol.

At the said place, Col. Cesar Yano, Commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade, Lt. Col. Noel Porlucas, commander of the 79th Infantry Battalion, and a certain Sgt. Abarri personally confronted and sternly warned Liza Serenio, 28, Secretary General of KARAPATAN-Bohol, and other members of her group from further proceeding with their probe.

They even ordered residents to throw stones at KARAPATAN members who would enter the barangay. They warned that non-compliance would automatically mean guilt for supporting the New People’s Army (NPA). As if to emphasize this point, soldiers warned the residents, “If you disobey our order, would you like it if one of you disappears, and your birthdays moved to November 1 or 2?”

Meanwhile, Sgt. Abarri furiously tried to rally residents into chanting “Go away KARAPATAN!” and “Down with KARAPATAN!” When the human rights advocates did not budge, Sgt. Abarri grew mad and ordered the soldiers to encircle the area. He announced KARAPATAN members would be bodily brought out of the place.

At about 12AM, the human rights advocates left with the residents for lunch.

KARAPATAN-Bohol sent out the 14-man probe team after receiving reports from residents of Brgy. Rizal that Re-engineered Special Operation Team (RSOT) of the Philippine Army has been coercing residents and barangay officials to set up a counter-insurgency Barangay Defense System (BDS) since 16 October 2007.

Residents complain that all those aging 16 years old and above are made to man the BDS checkpoints round the clock: Women are to take the day shift and the men, the night shift. They are also required to procure community tax certificates, while visitors without certificates are prohibited from entering the barangay.

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