Once more, military elements were reported to have taken a couple and their child on the grounds that the mother was believed to be an armed rebel. A scene that brings to mind the tragedy of Reina Mae Nasino and her baby River.
While they were sleeping, couple Marlyn Diantion, said to be branded as an alleged rebel going by the alias of “Ka Jandy,” and Edwin Madin with their two-month-old baby were shocked to find military men barging into their Hacienda Ambulong, Brgy. San Fernando, Talisay City home. It was around 1 AM, January 13, when the raid happened, and the men were believed to be from the 79th Infantry Battalion Philippine Army (IBPA).
Soon after, human rights group Karapatan Negros Island got wind of the case around 5:30 AM A later update revealed that one military truck full of soldiers were present in the area during the operation.
All of this happening days Northern Negros was being swept away by severe flash floods, leaving about 76,000 residents affected and nearly P50 million in agricultural damages.
Informants of Karapatan Negros Island said that the couple was brought to Philippine National Police (PNP) – Talisay for questioning while their child was reportedly put under the custody of the Talisay branch of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
A report from Panghimutad – Negros Island Alternative Media had the alliance saying that the military based their whole operation on unverified reports regarding the presence of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the area, in pursuit of a person that they allegedly do not even know. The battalion’s official Facebook post showed that, while there were references to “subversive documents with high intelligence value,” a huge bulk of the things retrieved were mostly food and household items.
In response, Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (NNAHRA) questioned the legal and ethical grounds of the raid.
“The incident is solid basis to expose the heartless implementation of the Anti-Terror Law, that even new born [sic] babies are not spared from military operations and captivity, condemning the incident as equivalent to taking the baby hostage to harass and coerce family members to provide information and surrender to the military,” NNAHRA said.
Even before this incident, there were many other times when the military had done something similar to what happened to Nasino.
“This is not the first time under the Duterte administration that pregnant women, nursing mothers and their children are subjected to horrendous conditions and cruel vilification just because they are suspected of political offenses,” said Arje Marangga of NNAHRA, also said to be a victim of an early morning military raid during March 2019.
Besides Nasino and Diantion, political prisoner Nona Espinosa also experienced something similar. Pregnant at the time when her detainment was first reported, Espinosa was arrested along with eight others in Brgy. Buenavista, Guihulngan City last September 20, 2020, and was charged with murder and robbery among others.
There was also Amanda Echanis, the daughter of slain peace consultant Randall Echanis, who was said to be incarcerated with her three-month child. It was recently reported that about 17 prisoners tested positive for COVID-19, reigniting calls for her immediate release.
“We are also concerned over the conditions of women political prisoners such as Nona Espinosa, who was pregnant when arrested in September 2020 in Guilhulngan City, and Amanda Echanis, a peasant organizer who was caring for her newborn child when arrested last December,” Marangga added.
Soldiers see red
The Negros region was becoming more of a nest for red-tagging cases and attacks towards progressive individuals and even their families, due in-part to the massive anti-insurgency campaign taking place there.
Last August 17, 2020, on the eve of peace negotiator Randall “Ka Randy” Echanis’ burial, Negros-based activist Zara Reboton Alvarez was shot dead by an unidentified riding-in-tandem along the street of Brgy. Mandalagan in Bacolod City. Reports said that a total of six gunshots were heard by nearby residents at the time of the killing. She was said to be red-tagged by authorities since the year 2012.
Last December 16, Guihulngan City-based city health officer Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan was gunned down with her husband by another riding-in-tandem near their home in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental. Sancelan has been a victim of red-tagging even before the shooting, and was the head of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the only doctor in the said city. (READ: Deaths of red-tagged doctor, husband mourned by colleagues, progressives)
Four days after the raid of Diantion’s family, “indiscriminate” mortar bombings took place at around 3 PM in Sitio Batong-buang, Brgy. Trinidad in Guihulngan City. Blaming the alleged elements of the 62nd IBPA under the 302 Brigade of the Philippine Army, Karapatan Negros Island said the bombings happened after a suppsoed run-in with the NPA.
“Duterte’s war on terror being waged nation-wide relies on the same kind of indiscriminate bombings and this has only led to its dismal failure and the rise of more armed and revolutionary groups,” the alliance said regarding the bombings.
Then again in the same area, resident and peasant Anselma Garde was reportedly taken by elements of the 62nd IBPA, said by Kabataan para sa Karapatan (KPK) as some form of “retaliation” for the alleged NPA ambush. [P]
Graphics by Gerard Laydia