Anatomy of State Terror: Human Rights Violations in Panay

This is an unpolished overview of the human rights situation in Panay that I drafted earlier this year.

Rodilyn Aguirre was only 5 years old when an explosion a meter and a half from her house in Brgy. Tacayan, Tapaz, Capiz killed her on March 11, 2012. Her unfortunate death is just the latest human rights violation under the Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino regime’s brutal Oplan Bayanihan counterinsurgency campaign.

Several parts of Rodilyn’s body were hit by shrapnel, resulting in fatal injuries especially in her left eye and neck. She was supposed to graduate from kindergarten in a few weeks. Her 3 year old sister Roda also sustained injuries on the face, arms, and stomach.

The AFP instantly came out with statements blaming New People’s Army (NPA) armed fighters for the death of Rodilyn, maliciously insinuating that the two victims were “child soldiers” of the armed revolutionary group.

But according to the grandfather Julian Aguirre and other Tacayan resident eyewitnesses, the explosives came from the direction of a detachment of the AFP’s 61st Infantry Battalion some 200 meters from their home.

* * *

The human rights group Karapatan has documented at least 64 cases of extrajudicial killings since the start of Aquino’s term in June 2010 up to October 2011.[1]

This includes the murder of Lezo, Aklan councilor and Bayan Muna coordinator Francisco Baldomero last July 5, 2010 just 5 days after Aquino took his seat in Malacanang.

At least nine other have been abducted by alleged state forces, 135[2] illegally detained, while 208 have been illegally arrested but were released shortly after.

Over 356 political prisoners continue to languish in various jails nationwide, including 7 who are detained in the Iloilo Provincial Integrated Jail in Pototan, Iloilo. Of this figure, 78 were arrested under the Aquino regime.

Karapatan also documented at least 11,593[3] cases of harassment, threats, and intimidation of leaders, members, and supporters of progressive groups under the Aquino regime.

The Aquino regime’s counterinsurgency campaign Oplan Bayanihan and its main implementer the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have been blamed for the seemingly never-ending spate of human rights violations in the country.

Like previous counterinsurgency plans, Oplan Bayanihan still fails to make any distinction between unarmed government critics, ordinary civilians, and armed revolutionaries even as it pays lip service to “respect for human rights” and “winning peace.”

* * *

Like the rest of the country, Panay Island is blessed with fertile lands, vast forests, rich mineral resources, and numerous rivers. Home to the Tumandok indigenous people, the Island is also steeped in legend and a rich culture.

But the Island is also lorded over by elites who own vast agricultural estates and bring in mining operations and other profit-seeking projects that displace the toiling masses of workers and peasants who remain hungry, jobless, and impoverished.

Over 31,804 hectares have been approved for mining while applications for the mining of an additional 140,960 hectares are just waiting to be approved. This and projects like the Jalaur River Mega-Dam Project are bound to displace thousands.

Panay is hence also the setting of intensifying human rights violations by state forces that seek to protect landlord and corporate interests over the dispossessed people.

* * *

Yearly, scores of students in universities, colleges, and high schools in Panay and all over the country are not spared from such witch-hunting.

Last June 25, 2011, a certain Captain Malan Mendoza of the 3rd Infantry Division talked to an assembly of University of the Philippines Visayas students who were told that student activists groups are “NPA recruiters.”

The situation in rural areas is worse because the threat of force is more real.

Last January 2011, a squad of AFP soldiers gathered the residents of Sitio Samboong, Brgy. Katipunan, Tapaz in Capiz and accused members of the Katipunan Small Farmers Associations as rebel affiliates.

They were threatened with the destruction of the whole sitio if they joined rallies and demonstrations.

Progressive leaders are also favourite targets of harassment and intimidation, just like when soldiers confiscated the ID pictures and community tax certificate of Katipunan Small Farmers Association Chair Noel Narce last February 5, 2011.

Another case was when Madiaas Ecological Movement and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Panay Education Officer Geobelyn Lopez-Beraye[4] received a death threat through snail mail last September 21, 2011.

Lopez-Beraye was also threatened with rebellion charges and the possibility of her “disappearing” like Bayan leaders Luisa Dominado and Nilo Arado who were abducted by government forces on April 12, 2007.

* * *

On January 5, 2011, soldiers of the 61st IB barged into the home of the Loreno family in Brgy. Binulusan Grande, Calinog, Iloilo.

Mother Anabelle Loreno was pounding banana for the lunch of her five children and did not notice the arrival of the soldiers. She and her children were shocked when two soldiers pointed M14 rifles at her 14 year old daughter.

The raiding team alleged that there were armed revolutionaries in the house of the Lorenos but left the house after seeing that there were none. They brought with them two Loreno children, aged 14 and 9, when they left and used them as guides.

Abnormal behaviour began to manifest in the 14 year old girl after the incident. She was brought to the Calinog District Hospital and diagnosed with anxiety disorder. However, her family cannot afford medication.

Another feature of Oplan Bayanihan is the militarization of civilian communities and populated centers in the guise of holding humanitarian missions and peace and development projects.

Karapatan has documented 10,577[5] cases of the military’s use of civilian population centers for military purposes and 4,376[6] cases of forced evacuation under the Aquino regime.

These constitute violations of international human rights accords that provide for the protection of civilian populations against the risk and dangers posed by military presence and encampments in urban centers and other populated areas.

* * *

There are seven political prisoners in Panay: Jomer Bagayo, Jojie Belo, Dennis Dote, Cirila Estrada, Jose Gabion, Bernard Givalao, and James Latumbo. They arrested because of their political convictions but were falsely charged with criminal offenses.

A poor peasant from Brgy Igpaho, Tubungan Iloilo, Jose Gabion’s house and family were caught in an encounter between NPA guerrillas and soldiers belonging to the 78th IB in the morning of May 14, 2008. His daughters Jessica, 12, and Joy Ann, 10, sustained serious wounds.

Failing to capture the guerrillas, the soldiers placed their ire on the Gabion couple who were subsequently arrested on charges of rebellion. Rosmarie Gabion was released on October 12, 2009 but Jose Gabion remains detained to this day.

Cirila Estrada [7], 49 years old, is an organic farming volunteer of peasant alliance Pamanggas. State forces apprehended her while she was walking in downtown Iloilo City on February 12, 2010. She is accused of being a top-ranking NPA leader in Panay.

* * *

The political prisoners continue their cry for freedom. However human rights violators in the military and the police remain free. The culture of impunity persists.

No serious action have been exerted to go after Retired General Jovito Palparan who is now in hiding after an arrest warrant was filed against him in connection to the abduction of UP student activists Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno.

The sorry state of human rights not only in Panay but in the whole Philippines shows that there is no difference between the Aquino regime and past regimes from Marcos to Arroyo.

Behind the Aquino regime’s pretentious and hypocritical promises of peace and development are the realities of violence, poverty, and intensified militarization.

[1] The latest count as of July 25, 2012 would now reach 100, according to Karapatan.

[2] The figures for illegal detention has shot up to 222 as of July 25, 2012.

[3] This is now 19,325.

[4] She is also Kalikasan Party-list 4th Nominee for the 2013 elections.

[5] This is now 14,620 as of July 25, 2012.

[6] This has ballooned to 29,465 as of July 25, 2012.

[7] Estrada has been released on bail.


  1. bkit ba di nyo pgbgyan kng totoo man na sla ay npa ang tao mnsan mgkamali at sa loob ng jail ay nppgisipan na nla yan kng walang pgbbgayan pano na ang mndo ntin anong klaseng pamahalaan tyo klngan ntin ang pagasa at krapatan sa bwat isa ktulad ng illegal logging na yan sobra sobra na kya sla nging rebelde dhil sa khinaan ng gbyerno nti me lagay lng tapos na nkklusot na ang mga illegal logging pano ang mga kbundukan ntin na isang araw mmtay tyo sa kggwan ng ibang tao kya sla ganyan dhil gstong smigaw ng ktarungan pero d pnpansin dhil silay mhirap lamang. mhal na pngulong noynoy bkit d ka mtulad sa iyong ina pusong mkadyos at mpagbigay d nman yan sila pmpatay at nghoholdup sa mga mhhirap d tulad ng mga nkaupo sa lipunannkaupo sa mlamig at panay ang nakaw

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