Group cites cases of human-rights violations in Masbate, Mindoro

Three human-rights advocates have been killed in Masbate while a fact-finding mission seeking to look into the reported cases of strafing and even deaths of three people in Mindoro was being prevented by the government, human-rights group Karapatan claimed over the weekend.

A report by Karapatan said that Arnie Espenilla, Zando Alcovendas and Pizo Cabug, residents of two barangays in the town of San Fernando, Masbate, were killed by state forces.

The three farmers who are members of Masbate People’s Organization, an organization member of Karapatan-Bicol, were reportedly killed on separate occasions from June 9 up to 14, with the incidents happening at night.

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general, said the three victims were allegedly killed by soldiers from the Army’s 2nd Infantry Battalion, who broke into their homes at Barangay Lahong and Buenavista.

“All unarmed, Espenilla, Alcovendas, and Cabug were murdered in the same week that Sorsogon-based human-rights workers [Ryan] Hubilla and [Nelly] Bagasala, as well as former activist Neptali Morada, were killed,” Palabay added.

Palabay said that Espenilla was at home in Barangay Lahong with his family when a “number of soldiers forcibly entered the house and shot him to death.”

At about 5 p.m. of the following day, uniformed men forcibly entered the house of Zando Alcovendas in Barangay Buenavista, and shot him dead, according to Palabay. On June 14, Pizo Cabug, a resident of Barangay Buenavista, was at home and was about to retire for the night when soldiers killed him, she added.

Karapatan said that Bicol region was fast becoming a killing field as the government “intensifies its crackdown on activists” after the issuance of Memorandum Order 32, an order deploying more soldiers and policemen in Bicol region.

In Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro, Palabay said that members of the Karapatan-Southern Tagalog fact-finding and humanitarian mission were been repeatedly harassed by policemen and soldiers as they attempted to look into the strafing cases and deaths of three people in the town as reported by Mangyan leaders.

“Karapatan-Southern Tagalog mission members have been blocked twice and prevented by soldiers from reaching the communities. In one instance, military personnel pointed their firearms at the group’s service vehicle,” Palabay added.

She narrated that on June 17, at noon time, while members of the mission were conducting dialogues with local government officials and assisting relatives of victims, elements of the PNP Regional Mobile Group and the Philippine Army went to the United Methodist Church in Barangay Dangay, Roxas, Oriental Mindoro, and interrogated church officials for accommodating members of the mission.

“Church leaders insisted they were just assisting those in need,” she added.

Karapatan said the fact-finding mission has yet to reach the “communities affected by the bombings and strafing incidents.”


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