Words by Yani Redoblado and Maan Curioso
Residents and farmers in Brgy. Taquico, Sampaloc, Quezon are now in a state of terror after two of their own residents were killed in the recent series of attacks against farmers and civilians in the province.
Based on initial reports, copra farmers Jorge Coronacion and Arnold Buri were heading home when armed personnel from the 59th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) shot them. Visible signs of torture were also reportedly seen on the bodies of the victims.
Contrary to the military’s claim that Coronacion and Buri were New People’s Army (NPA) members killed in an armed encounter, Tanggol Magsasaka Timog Katagalugan (TM-TK) stated in a press release that the two were civilian farmers. Residents of Brgy. Taquico also said that no exchange of fire was heard near their neighborhood.
“Ayon pa sa paabot ng kapamilya ay walang naganap na engkwentro at putukan sa lugar sapagkat lokal na magsasaka sila [Coronacion at Buri] sa Brgy. Taquico, at noon ay may malakas na ulan sa kanilang lugar noong Nobyembre 17,” Orly “Ka Orly” Marcellana, regional coordinator of peasant group TM-TK, said in an exclusive interview with the Perspective.
[“According to the relatives of the two, no encounter happened because both are local farmers in Brgy. Taquico, and that there was torrential rain in their area on November 17.”]
According to his family, 66 year-old Coronacion was already a senior citizen suffering from an eye disorder. On the other hand, Buri was a land and house caretaker of Sampaloc, Quezon Mayor Noel Angelo Devanadera.
“‘Yung pinangyarihan ay malapit lamang sa kinatatayuan ng bahay na pinangangalagaan ni Buri kaya walang putukan, kundi ang naganap ay pagpatay sa dalawa. Wala rin silang kinaaaniban na samahan, walang kinalaman sa mga aktibista, at mas lalong walang kinalaman sa NPA,” Ka Orly affirmed.
[“The scene was just near the house that Buri was guarding so there was no exchange of gunfire, but rather plain killing. They also have no affiliation with any organization, have nothing to do with activists, and even more so have nothing to do with the NPA.”]
However, Mayor Devanadera commented on the post of TM-TK saying that despite confirmation that Buri is employed by their family, he did not mention anything about Buri not being an NPA member.
“Umigting ang panawagang “hustisya” mula nang manlumo ang mga mamamayang Sampalukin sa naging tindig ni Mayor Gelo Devanadera, punongbayan ng Sampaloc, na pumaabor sa pahayag ng militar at walang aksyon para imbistigahan at palitawin ang katotohanan sa pangyayari,“ TM-TK wrote in a post.
[“The call for justice is intensified when Sampaloc residents were dismayed in Mayor Gelo Devanadera’s stand siding with the military’s reports and not taking actions to investigate and surface the truth behind the incident.”]
Ka Orly emphasized that Mayor Devanadera should have at least talked to the families of the farmers so that he can clarify the NPA allegations on the victims. Ka Orly added that an investigation team should have been formed to probe details regarding the alleged armed encounter.
According to him, it appears that Mayor Devanadera is fearing to go against the military in an effort to defend his constituents.
“Mayor, ikatlong henerasyon na po ng pagiging tenante si Arnold Buri sa inyong lupain mula pa sa kanyang lolo/mamay. Kung hindi ninyo kilala si Arnold at hindi ninyo siya kayang ipagtanggol sa mga akusasyon ay dapat din kayong magpaliwanag kung bakit kayo nagkukupkop ng isang NPA?” TM-TK wrote.
[“Mayor, Arnold Buri has been a tenant in your land for the third generation since his grandfather/mother. If you didn’t know Arnold and you cannot defend him against the accusations then you must also explain why you are harboring an NPA.”]
State of fear
Meanwhile, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said in a Facebook post that Brgy. Capt. Eliseo Mancenido attested that the two are civilians and not NPA members. Sampaloc Vice Mayor Kenneth Nantes also expressed sympathy to the victims’ families.
Ka Orly added that checkpoints were seen near the wake of the two farmers. Even the barangay captain and vice mayor were reportedly hindered by the military from talking to red-tagged organizations – human rights alliance Karapatan and BAYAN MUNA Partylist – in case they show up in the area.
A similar incident happened in February this year when military presence was observed during the wake of Ronnel Batarlo, a supposed high-ranking commander of the NPA who was killed in an encounter with the 85th IBPA in the municipality of Buenavista (READ: Mga pamiliya ng mga nadakip na NPA, nanawagang pabayaan ng mga militar sila na makiramay).
When asked whether they will pursue filing a case in court, the farmers’ families voiced out their fears and safety concerns.
A relative of Buri said, “Ang gusto po kasi ng mga tiya at angkan po namin, wag na po kaming [magsampa ng kaso]. Tama nang maipalibing namin siya […] ‘Yon nga po ang problema namin, paano nga po ang proteksyon namin?”
[“What our aunts and relatives want is for us to not [file a case]. It was enough for us to bury him […] That is our problem, how can we protect ourselves?”]
Despite fear, Buri’s family decided to pursue filing charges, according to Ka Orly. Human rights groups are still in talks with the family of Coronacion regarding the possible legal action.
TM-TK also called on Quezon Province Governor Danilo Suarez and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Region 4A to immediately investigate the deaths of Coronacion and Buri and hold the culprits accountable. CHR Region 4A already responded with an independent investigation to be conducted by the commission.
“Sa pamamagitan ng masusing imbestigasyon para lumitaw ang katotohanan at huwag basta paniwalaan ang ulat ng militar para pagtakpan ang isang malaking krimen ng pagpatay at paglabag sa karapatang-pantao ng mga biktima,” TM-TK’s statement read.
[“By conducting comprehensive investigations to uncover the truth and by not just believing what the military reports to conceal a huge crime of murder and violation of human rights of the victims.”]
Relatives of the victims’ families, along with TM-TK, expressed gratitude to the Makabayan Bloc headed by Cong. Eufemia Cullamat for responding to their call on crafting a resolution for the committee to investigate the said killing.
Coronacion and Buri were laid to rest last Tuesday, November 23, with more than 400 residents joining the call for justice. [P]