Kasiglahan Village in Rizal decry state forces over bogus agreement signing

Residents denounce the 80th Infantry Battalion’s coercion to sign a ‘unity agreement' and longtime harassment in the community

Words by Marian Angela Calabia and Robert Roy Gallardo

The Municipal Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (MTF-ELCAC) called for a “mass surrender and oath-taking” in Barangay San Jose, Rizal on March 12, according to San Isidro Kasiglahan, Kapatiran at Damayan para sa Kabuhayan, Katarungan at Kapayapaan (SIKKAD-K3). 

The alleged oath-taking has 400 to 500 residents who signed the “Unity  Agreement” circulated by the 80th Infantry Battalion, led by Romeo Quintana, in July 2022. Reports from progressive organizations in the community state that residents were being coerced into signing the agreements by either receiving promises or threats to their lives. 

In the agreement, MTF-ELCAC has been circulating two clauses: (1) the admission that they had previously supported the CPP-NPA-NDF and its legal fronts and; (2) that they “never supported, will support, reject, condemn and never will support the CPP-NPA-NDF.” 

By signing the agreements, residents will pledge to “reject, condemn, and never collaborate with the CPP-NPA-NDF again” and will be required to “report regarding the presence of the armed NPA in our area.” 

According to Barangay Captain Glen Evangelista endorsed the signing of the agreement on March 5, 2023 when the MTF-ELCAC called for a meeting inside the 1K2, Kasiglahan Village. SIKKAD-K3 and Bayan Muna officials confronted Evangelista and showed him a copy of the agreement. Evangelista states that the form was different from what the military showed him. 

Sabi po raw ng sundalo [kapag] binigyan po ako ng form. Yung form na yun, sabi raw magiging amin na raw yung bahay. Kaya pina-attend kami sa meeting kanina sa covered court,” expressed by one resident of Kasiglahan Village. 

(The soldier said when giving the form. That form will give us the house. So, we were called to attend the meeting at the covered court a while ago.) 

Others shared that military elements would pressure them by visiting their homes, coercing them to sign the agreement. One family expressed fear over the baseless red-tagging of their father as the military would harass, citing that they are members of the CPP-NPA-NDF. 

Residents also recount increased military activity around the community, particularly at night, adding to their worry. 

Human rights advocate Karapatan Rizal calls for a boycott in the oath-taking and encourages everyone to attend the Human Rights Forum on March 12 to discuss human rights and expose violations against the people who were forced to sign the agreement. 

Congressman Raoul Manuel of the Kabataan Partylist held a Focus Group Discussion on March 12, 2023 to explain the residents of Kasiglahan Village their rights. 

“Maliban po sa panghihikayat sa kapwa nating kongresista, kaya natin kailangan [ng] lahat ng boses. Yung mga boses po natin na susuporta doon sa mga na-ifile natin [house bill] dahil yun ang kailangan ng taong bayan.” 

(Besides encouraging our fellow congressmen, we need everyone’s voice. It will be our voices that will support the [house bills] we filed because those are what the people of our country need.) 

(RELATED STORY: 485 coconut farmers from Quezon coerced by state forces to surrender as affiliates of CPP-NPA-NDF; Intensified Quezon militarization draws fear on residents, relatives of slain farmers)

The two types of “surrender” forms that are being circulated by state forces to the residents of Kasiglahan Village
Photos by Karapatan Southern Tagalog 

Does being victorious entail being red-tagged? 

In 2016, more than 1,500 relocatees from Metro Manila occupied the vacant housing units in Kasiglahan Village, Rizal. 

Relocatees were demolished from their homes after the Aquino administration approved at least 50 projects under the Public-Private Partnership in Metro Manila. The National Housing Authority (NHA) started public housing projects to relocate the residents, but built them in remote areas wherein there are only a few employment opportunities. 

The empty housing units in Kasiglahan Village were from the public housing project by New San Jose Builders in 2000, but did push through as the Estrada administration declared the area as a “danger zone.” The area is near the West Valley Fault Line which makes it vulnerable to floods and earthquakes. 

SIKKAD-K3 clinched victory over the government’s inaction. The urban poor group asserted their right to basic social services and for the government’s assistance for the urban poor relocates such as housing that the Aquino administration denied. 

Harassments up Until Agreement Circulation

Up until the circulation of the agreement, the 80th Infantry Battalion and MTF-ELCAC had been committing human rights violations at 1K2, Kasiglahan Village, Montalban, Rizal after the community’s victory in fighting for the right to occupy abandoned housing in 2016. The community of Kasiglahan Village was met with continuous harassment, threats and pressure from the soldiers, tagging them as “sympathizers and members of the CPP-NPA-NDF”. 

The LGU and MTF-ELCAC released a red-tag list of over a hundred names of Montalban residents in April 2020, where soldiers would roam around the village to collect personal information of the residents, despite strict implementation of community quarantine under the COVID-19 pandemic. The soldiers’ harassments and intimidations then intensified, especially for the members of community organization SIKKAD-K3 and Bayan Muna, from May to September 2020. 

The military took advantage of the devastated and flooded community of Kasiglahan Village in November 2020 when Hurricane Ulysses arrived. The 80th Infantry Battalion was led by 1st Lieutenant Grace Emia to surround the area until March 7, 2021, the day when the Southern Tagalog Bloody Sunday Massacre (BSM) happened.

According to a SIKKAD-K3 member, a chilling effect has taken place in the community after BSM happened. Aside from the military pressure, their safety is their priority concern, fearing that a similar incident to the BSM would take place. 

A total of nine activists and community leaders were simultaneously murdered, including Mark Lee Bacasno and Melvin Dasigao who were members of SIKKAD-K3, and six others were illegally arrested from different provinces of the region. Dasigao was the president of SIKKAD-K3 and also served as a marshal security officer in relief operations. 

(READ: 9 patay, 6 arestado matapos ang ‘Bloody Sunday’ sa Timog Katagalugan) [P]

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