Rights group condemns killings in Masbate

TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains graphic details of human rights violations. 

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Human rights group Karapatan denounced the recent extrajudicial killing of a farmer In Masbate.

The group said that with the implementation of Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s administration’s counter-insurgency war in Masbate island, the victims of extrajudicial killings in the area already reached 27.

On April 2, Karapatan said that farmer Elorde “Nonoy” Almario was reportedly abducted, beaten up and killed by two members of the paramilitary (with one of them identified as Alvin Masamoc).

Two days later (April 4), the group said that Nonong Esteban, a former village chief also in Masbate, was also abducted in the same barrio, beaten up and about to be killed by the same paramilitary elements but was released upon realizing that they had the wrong person.

“With 27 victims of counter-insurgency related extrajudicial killings in less than two years of Marcos Jr’s rule, Masbate is fast becoming known as the ‘killing fields’ of Bicol,” Karapatan said in a statement.

The group cited the brutal killing of farmer couple Aimee and Jover Villegas on September 21, 2023. The military said that they were killed in an armed encounter but Karapatan said that “the nature of their injuries would demonstrate the falsity of this claim. Aimee’s throat and chin and the right side of her neck had been slashed.”

“She had stab wounds in her left breast and was shot twice in the back. Jover’s left eye was gouged out and he had gunshot wounds to the nape and back. These injuries point to the brutal torture they suffered at the hands of the soldiers before they were summarily killed,” Karapatan said.

Read: Eight civilians killed by military in one day

Karapatan also said that on December 20, 2023, farmer Francis Francisco was gathering firewood with his 11-year-old son near his home in Bagacay, Mobo, Masbate when he was killed by two masked men armed with handguns.

“He succumbed to nine gunshot wounds to different parts of his body. When the gunmen later took off their masks, one of them was recognized as a certain Kanoy, a rebel returnee,” Karapatan said.

On January 29, Karapatan said that members of a community were terrorized by the military. That morning, Karapatan said that 10 uniformed soldiers and paramilitary elements swooped down in Tubog, Pio V. Corpus in Masbate. The military rounded up seven farmers, namely, Ruben Menchavez, Ronel Rondina, Inday Wilyn, Macmac Catapan, Cadong Mendoza, his wife Gingging and their 9-year-old son. They were ordered by the troops to accompany them in their military operation.

When they arrived at the house of Johnny Compuesto, 82, the soldiers were joined by masked soldiers, some wearing civilian clothes. At least 27 soldiers were present at the said incident.

“The adults were interrogated, threatened, slapped and punched, all witnessed by the boy, who was traumatized and crying. Even the old man was interrogated and slapped by the soldiers, who later stole from him five fighting cocks, a large solar panel, two big cauldrons and two machetes. The farmers were only released at 1:00 p.m. with the soldiers leaving them the lame ‘apology’ that all they wanted was to scare them, not to kill them,” Karapatan said.

Karapatan said that “these systematic acts of terror indicate that de facto martial law prevails in Masbate.”

In 2018, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte issued Memorandum Order No. 32, increasing the deployment of army troops in Bicol, Negros island, and parts of Samar and Leyte purportedly to “quell lawless violence.” Rights groups stressed that the order should be rescinded as this has resulted in human rights violations.

Read: De facto martial law terrorizes civilians in Negros, Bicol, Eastern Visayas

Karapatan demanded a stop to serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law “perpetrated in Masbate by Marcos Jr’s soldiers against civilians in the course of his regime’s brutal counter-insurgency war.”

From July 1, 2022 to Dec. 31, 2023, Karapatan recorded a total of 89 victims of extrajudicial killings nationwide under the Marcos Jr. administration. (RTS, DAA) (https://www.bulatlat.org)

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