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KARAPATAN ST condemns AFP, PNP on “cover-up” of peasant organizers’ deaths

By Reuben Pio Martinez

Human rights alliance KARAPATAN Southern Tagalog (ST) alleged the involvement of authorities in the deaths of Pinagkaisang Ugnayan ng mga Magsasaka sa Laguna (PUMALAG) peasant organizer Emerito Pinza and a currently unidentified colleague.

           KARAPATAN ST pointed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police Police Regional Office 4A (PRO 4A), Regional Mobile Force Battalion 4A (RMFB 4A), and Laguna Provincial Police Office (PPO) as co-conspirators to the crime.

After Maribel Gonzales Pinza sought to find her husband after two weeks without contact, conflicting reports rose. Evidence from the Philippine Information Agency suggested that Pinza and his companion were killed during an operation in Sitio Balot Kahoy, Brgy. San Antonio, Kalayaan, Laguna, and were moved to Camp Vicente Lim, Calamba, Laguna. 

It was claimed by the RMFB 4A and the Laguna Provincial Mobile Police Force Company that the victims’ families in Kalayaan, Cavite were informed about their “death” on January 19 and their burial. However, Laguna PPO contradicted the RMFB 4A and Laguna Provincial Mobile Police Force by stating that the victims remain unknown, and were already claimed by unidentified families.

Additionally, Camp Vicente Lim’s Captain Venida claimed no bodies were retrieved. Kalayaan PNP and Camp Macario Sakay also provided differing stories.

Moreover, KARAPATAN ST continued by stating that the alleged cover-up is another manifestation of the polarizing Executive Order 70, wherein government agencies, including the AFP and PNP, formed the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). The order received criticism for red-tagging (accusing individuals of being a part of the communist group CPP-NPA-NDF) activists and progressive groups.

Criticizing the said executive order, KARAPATAN ST spokesperson Kyle Salgado claimed that upon the leadership of Antonio Parlade as military commander, the military has continued to “rehash old tactics to satisfy Duterte’s bloodlust.”

“Ever since Antonio Parlade was assigned military commander in South Luzon, he has been busy proving that he is nothing but a disingenuous troll with no aim to secure peace. He and his cohorts have twisted the meaning of peace by rehashing old tactics of red-tagging, extrajudicial killing, and disappearance to satisfy Duterte’s bloodlust,” Salgado said.

Questioning the authenticity of the reports, Salgado also commented that ever since Major General Antonio Parlade became a South Luzon-stationed military leader, peace became synonymous with human rights violations and extra-judicial killings.

“Why can’t they [the authorities] show the Pinza family any body if the reports are true or not? Why are they so adamant in insisting that they have already buried the two while claiming they are still unidentified?,” Salgado said.

This is not the only recent killing in the Southern Tagalog region. On January 31, indigenous people organizer Jay-ar Mercado of the Bigkis at Lakas ng mga Katutubo sa Timog Katagalugan (BALATIK) was slain in Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro. [P]

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