By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The National Federation of Peasant Women (Amihan) group has denounced the rights abuses made against farmers during the COVID-19 lockdown, and has urged that military troops pull out from peasant communities.
The group said the continuous military operations in farming communities cause human rights violations against farmers and their families.
One such example of this violation is the ransacking of their homes in Sitio Odiong, Barangay Bandila, Toboso, Negros Occidental on April 15 around 6:30 in the morning by the joint forces of the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Special Action Force.
The Northern Negros Alliance of Human Rights (NNAHRA) likewise reported that a 12-year old minor even fainted because of intense pressure imposed by military forces. These forces threatened and interrogated the child who was in the house while other family members were working on the fields.
NNAHRA added that military operations have continued in the rural areas of Escalante City, Calatrava, and Toboso despite the province-wide lockdown, therefore prompting civilians and farmers to surrender as members of the New People's Army (NPA) as well as break up their cooperatives and give their lands back to the landlords.
“It is enraging that farmers and their families are suffering from poverty and hunger worsened by the impact of COVID-19 lockdown and the delayed delivery of assistance from the government. The continuing red-tagging, threats, and harassment farmers experience at the hands of military forces add to the distress and anxiety they go through,” Amihan national chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.
During these times, Soriano said farmers need support from the government so that they can survive the pandemic. And one such support is the pull-out of military forces from farming communities. In doing so, they will ensure and respect the rights of farmers.