Bohol farmers who embrace development programs and government agencies attending to their needs have refuted as false the allegations of militarization, harassment and persecution of militant groups and their collaborators.
They found the â€œmisinformation and half-truths, if not perfect lies,â€ peddled by the militant Hugpong sa mga Mag-uumang Bol-anon (HUMABOL) and its allies instead putting suspect the credibility of a so-called International Fact-Finding Mission (IFFM)Â here last week.
In the first place, there have been no military harassment while it is the poor HUMABOL members have been reportedly Â disallowed by their leaders from accepting government support, according to the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries of Talibon and Trinidad (ARBOTT).
The ARBOTT have members who are formerly with the HUMABOL.
Even the farmers who do not belong to either ARBOTT or HUMABOL argued how could a government be accused of violating human rights when, aside from granting their needs, it has taught them self-governance.
Gov. Edgar Chatto welcomed the IFFM on courtesy call at the Governorâ€™s Mansion on September 21, but a woman in the local militant group joining the fact-finding lambasted the provinceâ€™s Countryside Development Program-Purok Power Movement (CDP-PPM) as soon as an open forum opened.
The governor explained the CDP-PPM initiative which has become a Bohol by-word for a working government that is felt by the people, especially those in remote areas.
Along with a Cebu-based NGO called the Farmers Development Center (FARDEC), the HUMABOL has also been criticizing as counter-insurgency acts the governmentâ€™s socio-economic and poverty alleviation programs.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported in the meeting of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC), which chairman is Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III, at Cebu Provincial Capitol on Wednesday that Bohol is still â€œinsurgency-free.â€
Thus, there are soldiers and policemen in Bohol involved in socio-economic and civic outreach activities like those of the CDP-PPM precisely in pursuit of and to sustain the peace and development effort.
But the IFFM recommended in its finding â€œto pull out all military troops in peasant communities in Bohol.â€
Peasant communities who are not indoctrinated into or have denounced their experiences with Humabol found the recommendation misleading as it insinuates that soldiers are scattered and causing trouble wherever there are farmers.
HUMABOL leaders accused the government of vilifying its members and allies and that the livelihood and other support programs extended thru the CDP-PPM are nothing but a â€œbriberyâ€ to the people.
Also vilified and harassed, according to the IFFM, are the people of the Community Empowerment Resource network (CERNET) and Visayas Primary Health Care Services, Inc. (VPHCS).
Barangay and purok communities having already benefited from CDP-PPM services, which are for all and never selective, exposed the militant groups as the ones telling its members to reject the development program.
A big question to its credibility and objectivity hanged over the IFFM as it included in its panel the accusers themselves, HUMABOL and FARDEC, according to government agencies targeted by the fact-finding which they said should have been done by an independent group.
In its lead, the panel featured militant allies like the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) headed by its chairman, former party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano of Anak-Pawis, and Asian Peasant Coalition (APC).
The IFFM likewise recommended â€œto continue to opposeâ€ the CDP-PPM, a strategy of the province considered by many Boholanos as a â€œheart of a thoughtful governmentâ€ and by some other provinces as a â€œbest practiceâ€ worth replicating.
In last weekâ€™s press conference marking the partnership of the government and civil society organizations (CSOs) in Bohol, it was revealed that the FARDEC is not accredited per certifications from the Sangguniang Panlalawigans (SPs) of Cebu and Bohol.
The CSOs in Bohol have not considered the FARDEC to be among them.
Like capitolâ€™s â€œHEAT IT Boholâ€ caravans, the CDP-PPM is supported by national agencies and CSOs in bringing projects and services right to the constituent doorstep and addressing basic, essential concerns at the very grassroot level.
AT RICE MILL
In its finding, the IFFM repeatedly cited an allegation of harassment and intimidation to a woman caretaker of a rice mill hosted by the Trinidad-Talibon Integrated Farmers Association (TTIFA), a HUMABOLÂ affiliate, and run by FARDEC in San Vicente, Trinidad last year,
It was allegedly perpetrated by Provincial Agriculturist Liza Quirog, also the CDP-PPM provincial coordinator, who arrived along with some soldiers, entered the mill warehouse and took pictures of the facility.
The caretaker, Rowena Busalanan, charged Quirog at the Provincial Prosecutorâ€™s Office with violation of domicile and unjust vexation while separate investigations were conducted by the Fact-Finding Team (FFT) of the Local Monitoring Board (LMB) of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
The Department of Justice (DOJ) thru the fiscalâ€™s office dismissed the complaint against Quirog while the human rights probe cleared her of any violation as the provincial agriculturist merely visited the rice mill and even extended pleasantries to the people there.
Copies of the CARHRIHL-LMB and CHR findings and DOJ dismissal order were given to the IFFM thru its member, Roy Rodrigo, from Sri Lanka, during the open forum at the Governorâ€™s Mansion, but these were never mentioned and acknowledged even once in the IFFM finding report.
The IFFM accused in its report the Boheco II of â€œarbitrarily cutting the electric supplyâ€ to the rice mill, claiming that it was because of a â€œcertain complaintâ€ that the electric cooperative would not allegedly disclose.
Although it is more of a concern strictly between the Boheco and its consumer, it was learned that among the power connection requirements is a title of a lot where a structure applied for power line is situated.
On the same day of the fact-finding, three alleged HUMABOL members were reported to the police for threatening certain persons named Juan Aton, Antonio Muring and Alex Boncales, who were to attend and assist in the San Vicente Womenâ€™s Association anniversary celebration in San Vicente, Trinidad.
Two of the suspects were identified as Mario Abaniel and an alias Boyboy Fuentes, both of Purok 7 in san Vicente, while the third was unnamed.
Abaniel asked Atonâ€™s group why they got there but when Aton, who is from Tuburan in Ubay, replied that they were invited to the womenâ€™s celebration, Abaniel allegedly threatened to shoot him.
The anniversary of the womenâ€™s association had lined up activities for the day joined by the ARBOTT, both groups formed thru CDP-PPM assistance.
MORE FACTS MISSING
The IFFM finding report has been noted wanting in more other facts deemed crucial to arriving at an objective assessment of issues and concerns.
It said that the fact-finding delegates were â€œdismayedâ€ by Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Provincial Officer Grace Fuaâ€™s admission that her office recommended the installment of an army detachment in San Vicente, Trinidad.
Agrarian reform beneficiaries belonging to ARBOTT affirmed that it was put up as requested by them, the barangay and municipal LGUs to keep peace and order in the area, but this fact was also not mentioned in the IFFM report.
Trinidad Mayor Judith Cajes said the IFFM saw her and she told the probe panel that she has not received or heard any complaint of army abuse or harassment, and that the Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) is ready and willing to act on any.
This fact was likewise not revealed in the IFFM finding report.
The mayor expressed dismay over the IFFM concept paper which already finding her faults against HUMABOL and FARDEC even before the fact-finding was to begin.
Further, the finding report also did not say if the IFFM did ever see the San Vicente barangay and Trinidad municipal officials to hear their sides.
The AFP is among the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) implementing agencies and if putting up a detachment in the area relates to its implementation, then allocating a portion of the land for the purpose has a strong basis, Fua said.
This is in accordance with the Joint Memorandum Circular No. 05-02 of the DAR, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of National Defense (DND).
During the IFFM inquiry visit at the DAR-Bohol office, KMPâ€™s Mariano, former FARDEC Exec. Dir. Ester Catarata and Bayan-Boholâ€™s John Ruiz questioned why the agency allowed the detachment.
The IFFM did not mention in its fact-finding notice and finding report that Bayan, also a militant group, was among its panel of investigators.
Catarata claimed they have a copy of a mother CLOA for the land where the FARDEC mill is located, but FUA said that, on record, the mill rises on a lot not owned by HUMABOLâ€™s TTIFA and there has never been any CLOA issued to its members.
Fua told the IFFM that FARDECâ€™s CLOA claim could not be possible and true since it is her office responsible for the issuance of a CLOA.
Except for HUMABOL, the agrarian reform beneficiaries and barangay community have not complained against the army presence as they instead welcomed â€œpeace to their farms, industry and lives.â€
Before the army camped there, an agrarian reform beneficiary named Vilma Reyes and her family formally complained against an alleged harassment by members of HUMABOL led by Danilo Olayvar, further accusing them of fencing her house off.
A TARGET, TOO
Based on its finding report, the IFFM was noted to be likewise dressing down Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III and making his administration Â appear brutal before the international eye since it was an â€œinternationalâ€ probe.
It accused the Aquino administration and its Bohol counterpart of having â€œno interest of helping the predicament of the farmers.â€
â€œIn fact, it is Aquinoâ€™s counter insurgency program that is responsible for more than 130 extrajudicial killings, most (of the victims) of which are peasants, incarcerated hundreds for trumped up charges and harassed thousandsÂ from the rural areas,â€ the IFFM finding said.
Worst, according to government sources, the report sounds as if these alleged violations in Aquinoâ€™s time all happened in Bohol.
As a â€œfact-findingâ€ mission, the IFFM was understood to supposedly gather facts determining if the allegations from FARDEC, HUMABOL and allies are true or not, but its concept paper alone already outlined its â€œspecific objectives.â€
One of these objectives is to â€œexpose and opposeâ€¦Gov. Chattoâ€™s Â Purok Power Movement,â€ according to the concept document itself.
By its heading, the IFFM finding report appeared to be telling that the fact-finding was done from September 20 to 22 or three days.
But the panelâ€™s itinerary based on the concept paper showed that only one day—September 21—was to be allocated for â€œcourtesy visit to local government officials/church officials; area visit and actual interviews/data gathering to affected communities; assessment and processing of data.â€
The IFFM already had a prepared statement, dated September 22, which sounded to be confirming and concluding that the allegations were true and that the CDP-PPM â€œis an instrument of oppression.â€
Government agencies, individual workers and the farmers and other government program beneficiaries shared one common observation—that the fact-finding did clearly not intend to be factual, truthful and objective since beginning.
They further noted that the IFFM concept paper already contained allegations, â€œfindings and recommendationsâ€ even before the supposed fact-finding had to start, and the same contents were substantially used in the finding report.
The legitimacy of the so-called international fact-finding raised more eyebrows because international laws require it to have authority from the government of the host state, according to government sourceÂ Â (Ven rebo Arigo)