Cebu City–Victims of recent military abuses in Sta.Catalina, Negros Oriental filed formal complaints last Friday at the Ombudsman-Visayas against five identified soldiers of the 79th Infantry Battalion, including its commanding officer Lt. Col. Pio Dinoso.

The charges ranged from violation of RA 6713, violation of domicile and physical injuries to arbitrary arrest and detention. These emanated in the aftermath of an alleged NPA-Scout Ranger firefight in Sitio Payao-payawan, Sta.Catalina on March 16, 2011 which also led to the displacement of at least 13 households, and the shooting of local resident Marvin Villegas, 18.

In his affidavit, local resident and pastor Dionisio Bulandres, bared that the soldiers raided his home and stabbed him with the muzzle of a rifle shortly after the said firefight. He said the perpetrators, including a Cpl. Jungco, ordered him to jump out of his house, but grew angry at him when he refused. He added that the assault on his person traumatized his household, especially his little children.

In a separate complaint, Manuel Bentillo, a volunteer of the monitoring team of the premier human rights alliance KARAPATAN, accused the soldiers led by Cpl. Yosores and Sgt. Corpus of illegal arrests and other violations when his group and some residents were held against their will while trying to bring to the town center the wounded resident Villegas. In his affidavit, Bentillo said that Villegas’ neighbors asked his groups’ help to bring to the hospital the young farmer at about 3PM of the same day. On their way however, at about 10PM, the perpetrators pounced on them out of nowhere and at gunpoint arrested and interrogated the human rights monitoring group, the patient and his family and neighbors.

The human rights monitoring body has been in Sta.Catalina since Feb. 15, 2011–the start of the formal peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front–to observe the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and Internal Humanitarian Laws signed by both parties.

“We are disgusted over the AFP’s ongoing Oplan Bayanihan which clearly and totally disregards human rights. We condemned the continuing AFP policy of targeting civilians and covering this up with mere allegations that the victims are NPA supporters. We demand the junking of Oplan Bayanihan and all militarist policies ,” said Rev. Ray Gelloagan, chairperson of KARAPATAN-Central Visayas.

Gelloagan expects more victims to lodge complaints in the coming weeks as the military intensifies its operation in the affected communities.


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