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National

Army unit in Kidapawan accused of forcing farmer to undress welcomes human rights probe

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

KIDAPAWAN CITY—One of two Army units which is accused of rounding up civilians and forcing a farmer to undress and admit, at gunpoint, that he was a commander of the communist New People's Army (NPA) welcomed a human rights probe. 

The Philippine Army's 57th Infantry Batallion said it welcomed an inquiry to be conducted by the Commission on Human Rights, Lt. Nashrol Sema, its spokesperson, said. The batallion would "impose necessary punishment if ever our soldiers indeed committed a mistake," Sema added. 

Sema made these remarks on Thursday after the 57th and the 48th Infantry Battalion rounded up some 21 residents of Magpet town, lined them up at a basketball court, and accused them of being communists last November 27. 

They were exposed to the sun from around 10:00 in the morning until 12:00 noon, according to a quick reaction team (QRT) organized by the Apo Sandawa Lumadnong Panaghiusa (ASLP), a broad alliance of Indigenous Peoples. 

Norma Capuyan, speaking on behalf of the ASLP, confirmed an encounter took place between the soldiers and NPA guerrillas before the civilians were told to line up at the basketball court.
She stressed that the site of the confrontation was “very far from the houses of the villagers who were harassed.”

Victor Apung, a member of the group who was rounded up, said they were all banana plantation workers. They went early to work and were about to take a break for breakfast when the soldiers made them line up and, at gunpoint, made them march towards a nearby basketball court.

He said that a house of his neighbor was “ransacked” by the soldiers who reportedly told them that the house was an NPA hideout and that firearms were kept inside it. The search discovered no firearms, Apung said.

Meanwhile, one of the reported victims, Aurello Boisan, was “forced to undress, hogtied and at gunpoint was forced to admit he was an NPA commander," the QRT said. 

Boisan said he already raised his hands in surrender, telling soldiers that he was a civilian. Despite his gesture, the soldiers hogtied him and accused him of being an NPA commander.

"I raised my hands to show to the soldiers that I am an unarmed civilian, but they still hogtied me using a used fan belt. I decided to get near the soldiers when the firing stopped because I was afraid I will be suspected as NPA," he said. 

During the exchange of gunfire, Boisan said he was on his way to his farm and immediately took cover. As soon as the gunfire subsided, he went to his house where the soldiers started to cook their rations.

The Army's 57th IB said that it plans to hold a dialogue with civilians to thresh out harassment allegations. 

The recent harassment was part of an ongoing military operation in Magpet that began in 2010, Capuyan said. 

It has already displaced many civilians, many of them were victims of harassment intended to intimidate them and make them admit they (civilians) were either NPA members, supporters, or commanders. 

Militant groups are set to hold a protest action in this city to condemn what they described as “continuing military atrocities against the civilians in Magpet that started since 2010.”

The operation reportedly displaced 141 families from barangays Amabel and Doles of the town.

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