NEWS RELEASE, May 16, 2012 - The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW – Negros) today assailed the government-funded rebel group Revolutionary Proletarian Army – Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) for brazen human rights violations against farmers in the province of Negros Occidental and called on President Aquino to disband what they described as “bandit group.”
The KMP and NFSW furnished the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) a report of the fact-finding mission held in Escalante City, Sagay City, Victorias City, and the town of E.B. Magalona last May 9 to 13 stating that “in the rural areas of Negros Occidental, the presence of RPA-ABB equates to heinous crimes against farmers, sugarcane workers and other individuals, especially now that they are being coddled by big landlords in the province.”
KMP deputy secretary general Willy Marbella said “the RPA –ABB has evolved into a bandit group and private army of landlords especially in areas where agrarian disputes exists, like Hacienda Villasor and Hacienda Baldevia in Sagay City.”
“Landlords hired members of the RPA-ABB as part of their security forces to coerce protesting farmworkers, peasants and women, especially in areas where there are land disputes and the masses are struggling for genuine agrarian reform,” Marbella said.
Among the violations committed against the people that the fact finding mission documented are killings, enforced disappearances, arson, attempted murder, sexual harassment, grave threats, coercion, intimidation, indiscriminate firing resulting to destruction of property, strafing, displacement, illegal dismissal, vilification, demolition, violations of domicile and illegal search.
Also reported to the CHR is the case of Rogelio Seva of Hacienda Milagrosa in E.B. Magalona who was gunned down by riding in tandem men last February 19, 2012. His family believes that RPA-ABB member Lauro Delgado alias Dodoy killed Seva.
The report also said that “Lelia Devero and her family is one of affected residents in E.B. Magalona. On July 19, 2011, members of RPA-ABB arrived in their home, asking for water. She refused to let them in but the armed men kicked open the door. They said that they were looking for firearms that were hidden in their home but when they could not find any, they forcibly took Lelia’s husband Jully. They never saw Jully again.”
Others were forcibly separated from their families because of the vilification campaigns of the military against legal activists, such as members of the NFSW, or even ordinary citizens like Jose Trecito Caballero, a lay minister from Sitio Bugho, Barangay General Luna in Toboso, Negros Occidental, who was red-tagged by the Philippine Army as an NPA commander.
For his part, NFSW-Negros spokersperson Rolando Rillo called on the Aquino government to “immediately disband the RPA-ABB.”
“We demand the Aquino government to stop using people’s money to fund the RPA-ABB. Instead, the Aquino government must give justice to the victims of this bandit group by sending members of the RPA-ABB behind bars,” Rillo said.
According to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), a total of P267 million of government funds have already been released since the 1990s to the RPA-ABB. For 2012, more than P90 million have been allotted for the RPA-ABB. In Negros Occidental, the provincial government and the RPA-ABB forged a memorandum of agreement, stipulating that P31 million of the P91 million will be released in order to fund “developmental projects.”
The RPA-ABB surrendered to the government in the later part of the 1990s during the administration of President Joseph Estrada. Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., uncle of current President Benigno “Noynoy” C. Aquino III, served as witness to the peace agreement and eventually hired members of RPA-ABB as part of his security forces in Negros Island.
The RPA-ABB members were formally integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. They served as a force multiplier and member of the special Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit in the military’s counter-insurgency operations. #