Release illegally arrested "Calaca 6" farmers
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At the crack of dawn today while the town of Calaca in Batangas is still under the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), combined forces from the Philippine National Police (PNP), Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), Philippine Air Force, and Armed Forces of the Philippines’ 202nd Brigade arrested six farmers and leaders of local peasant organization in Brgy. Coral ni Lopez.
However, the arrest transpired after successive raids in the whole barangay from 1:00 AM until 10:00 AM. Even those households not included in the search warrant were raided. The barangay’s secretary Virgilio Vidal’s house was first. Government forces went inside his house while his children were sleeping. They were also made to lie down on their stomachs at gunpoint. He reported that it was after they raided his house that they showed their search warrant.
The other five who suffered the same fate are Doroteo Bautista, July Julongbayan, Brgy. Coral ni Lopez Councilor Leovino Julongbayan Jr., Roilan Tenorio, Marcelo Vidal. They are all members of Samahan ng Magsasaka sa Coral ni Lopez (SAMACOLO).
State forces presented a search warrant issued by Judge Cynthia R. Mariño-Ricablanca on May 7 from the Sta. Cruz, Laguna Branch of the RTC. According to the warrant, Virgilio is believed to possess a caliber .45 pistol, a caliber 30 carbine, and ammunition. After the arrests, state forces reported that all six possess grenades. The farmers decried of planted evidence as government forces reported to have retrieved grenades and explosive devices.
According to the locals, they have witnessed 47 combined military trucks and police mobiles that surrounded the community to ensure blocking forces against those who will attempt to contain mobility of the whole community. The raid encounter in Calaca Batangas where state forces attacked while the target victims are on their sound sleep could be patterned on the implementation of Oplan Sauron in Negros. This crackdown scheme is implemented to “neutralize” and silence farmers fighting for their land through extrajudicial killings and weaponizing of law to justify trumped up charges, mass arrest, vilification and red-tagging.
Moreover, this operation is a ploy of the Regional Taskforce to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (RTF-ELCAC) who are determined to execute crackdown against legitimate progressive mass organizations in cities and even at the countryside while taking advantage of Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
As of writing, the farmers are in custody and are arbitrarily detained at Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba, Laguna. Officers from CIDG RFU4A would not allow the immediate families to see Calaca 6 after travelling right away from Calaca, Batangas despite there initial commitment that they will be allowed to come and visit the six farmers, same with their legal counsel. A certain police officer told that the families cannot see and visit the farmers for they might be potential carrier of Covid-19.
“Talagang walang maniniwala sa pamahalaan na prayoridad nito ang giyera laban sa COVID-19 dahil ang totoo’y nananatiling nangunguna sa kanila ang giyera kontra mamamayan. Kinakasangkapan lamang ng estado ang pandemya para mas madaling maipagpatuloy ang pandarahas sa mga mamamayan sa panahong limitado ang maaari nating gawin,” Karapatan ST Spokesperson Kyle Salgado said.
Through the years, Brgy. Coral ni Lopez has been frequented by elements of the military and its residents repeatedly harassed and red-tagged. On June 6 2018, residents confronted military forces that occupied an abandoned house inside their barangay. The military told them that their names are in the Order of Battle hitlist. In 2016, military forces harassed residents and called them ‘NPAs by night’.
Since the 1970s, SAMACOLO has long been part of the farmers’ struggle for land owned by Luis Lopez from Balayan, Batangas. In 2007, the Department of Agrarian Reform in CALABARZON cancelled the collective Certificate of Land Ownership (CLOA) which was previously given to Coral ni Lopez residents in 1993.
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