The six-man Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives has sought a congressional probe on the supposed strings of killings and human rights violations committed against farmers during the community quarantine.
Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Eufemia Cullamat, along with five other progressive lawmakers, called on the House Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Quezon City 4th District Rep. Jesus “Bong” Suntay, to look into the reported illegal arrests, killings, and other human rights violations against farmers and members of farmers’ organizations all over the country since the community quarantine was first imposed on March 16.
“It is imperative for members of Congress, as representatives of our people, to defend the rights of our people and check on excesses and violations committed against them. Laws and rules should serve the interest of our people and abuses against it should be held to account,” Cullamat’s group said under House Resolution No. 1036.
“Congress is duty-bound to conduct investigations to be able to uphold justice and protect the people against abuses especially during extraordinary times such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” they added.
The Makabayan lawmakers said amid the call made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on April 27 to countries to refrain from rights violations under the guise of exceptional or emergency measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, several reports of killings, illegal arrests, and other human rights violations against farmers and members of farmers’ groups were logged.
They even noted that on April 20, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is not a license to violate human rights and expressed the government’s readiness to receive complaints of human rights violations amid the implementation of measures against COVID-19.
Under the resolution, the progressive lawmakers enumerated 22 incidents of killings, illegal arrests, and other human rights against farmers, half of which happened in Visayas. They pointed to the killing of peasant advocate and artist Marlon Maldos last March 17 by unidentified riding-in-tandem at Purok 4, Barangay Dela Paz in Cortes town, Bohol, they said.
Two weeks after Maldos’ death, woman peasant leader Nora Apique, 66, was shot dead by armed men on board a motorcycle in Brgy. Patong, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur. Apique was a peasant leader from the Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Surigao del Sur (KAMASS – KMP).
Both were reportedly red-tagged by the military.
The Makabayan bloc also protested the arrest of six volunteers of Sagip Kanayunan and Tulong Anakpawis relief drive at a checkpoint in the boundaries of San Jose Del Monte City and Norzagaray in Bulacan last April 19.
“The relief volunteers were on a humanitarian relief mission and scheduled to deliver food packs to residents of Sitio Kalye Onse, Barangay Bigte in Norzagaray, Bulacan. The relief volunteers were wearing face masks and were observing physical distancing. They also had a food pass and permits to deliver the relief goods,” they said.
They said former Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao who came to their aid was also apprehended by the police.
According to them, the relief volunteers were detained at the Norzagaray Police Station and were charged with violation of RA 11332, inciting to sedition, and usurpation of authority and were released on bail on April 21, 2020.