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Foreign human rights community looks into Samar’s military atrocities

Thousands join Peace Rally in Samar’s capital

Samareños want lasting peace

2 Samar military raids kill 4 NPA rebels

LGU officials silent on Samar militarization

Petition for the return of Balangiga Bells launched

Villagers in Samar accused military for abuses

Zero mining in Samar island

MGen Palparan assumes 8ID Command

8ID troops encounter NPA in Leyte




AHRC urges concerned Filipinos to pressure DOJ for unsolved killings of militant leaders

September 14, 2005

CATBALOGAN, Samar  -  The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in Hong Kong in a circulated email of urgent appeal urges concerned Filipinos worldwide for their intervention to pressure the Philippine government, in particular the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to seriously take immediate steps to address the unsolved cases of killings of activist leaders in the Visayas.

They declared that the latest attacks and violence against human rights activist in the Philippines, particularly in Eastern Visayas demonstrate that the killings of activists are continuing unabated with the government failing to arrest those responsible and prevent further attacks and violence from reoccurring. The impunity enjoyed by the alleged perpetrators is mainly a result of an ineffective witness protection program by the government.

On the early morning of September 1, 2005, another human rights lawyer, Norman Bocar, 57, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen in Borongan, Eastern Samar. It was reported that Bocar was coming out from a meeting when shot in the head by his attackers riding on a motorcycle. He was the regional chairman of Bayan, a human rights group, at the time of his death.

Bocar was the latest human rights lawyer to be killed following the killing of Atty. Felidito Dacut on March 14 in Tacloban City. Bocar is a known progressive lawyer and local leader of people's organizations. He was among the lawyers defending the human rights of the poor and the oppressed.

Progressive groups in Eastern Visayas blamed the military as responsible for the killing of Bocar which they believed as part of the continuing attack against their members, however, the military in this region constantly dismissed such accusation.

The AHRC added that since these systematic attacks began, most of the alleged perpetrators have not been identified, arrested or prosecuted. There are also strong suspicions that they could in fact be military agents. Even where there have been potential witnesses, such as in the case of Atty. Felidito Dacut (link) and Rev. Edison Lapuz (link), no progress has been made because they refuse to cooperate. Likewise, the families and relatives of the dead have also opted not cooperate for fear of their life and safety.

“The absence of witnesses or their refusal to cooperate is due in large part to the lack of an effective and functional program to provide protection for witnesses. Although the government is aware of this situation it has not done enough to address this. In most cases, they have put the blame on the witnesses and families of the dead instead of ensuring their safety and protection during trial. The DOJ must evaluate and consider placing witnesses under a witness protection program. It must also provide protection and afford indemnification to the families of the dead,” the AHRC said.

Even though there have been claims of concern by government agencies, in particular the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to address this situation, the reality suggests that the government has not done enough to seriously resolve this problem, and to provide protection to witnesses.

In a related concern, the Samar Island Council for Sustainable Development (SICSD), in its BOD meeting held at the Bishop's Palace in Borongan, Eastern Samar on Monday, September 12, issued a letter of sympathy and a plea for justice to the untimely death Atty. Norman Bocar decrying such evil act of killing, and appealed to all organizations for the preservation of justice.





Gen. Coloma neutralizes 26 EV’s drug syndicates in 3-year stint

September 10, 2005

General Coloma

CATBALOGAN, Samar   -- The Philippine National Police Regional Office in Eastern Visayas (PRO-8) under the 3-year headship of Supt. Dionisio Coloma Jr. has neutralized, among others, 26 local drug syndicates operating in the region.

In his three-years performance accomplishment report, Coloma said the PRO-8 operatives pulled off raids and buy-bust operations in Leyte, Samar, and Biliran provinces that resulted to the apprehension of several pushers and ushers, filing of cases in court and hauled in considerable amount worth of illegal drugs.

“With this, I am proud to say that we have neutralized the big syndicates of drug dealers in the region,” General Coloma told the press as he relinquished his post due to his compulsory retirement on Friday, September 9.

Sr. Supt. Conrado Calvario, deputy regional director for administration, temporarily assumed the post vacated by Coloma, who served the police force for over 35 years.

According to the report of Coloma, the police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency have identified 16 drug syndicates operating in the region in year 2003. Of these figure, Coloma notes, they were able to neutralized eight drug groups, which considered by them as most “notorious and elusive.”

Coloma identified those groups as the Sacay Group operating in Ormoc City; Kalag Group operating in Southern Leyte; Fiel Group operating in Samar; Espina Group operating in Sogod, Southern Leyte; Maymay Group operating in Catbalogan, Samar; Segovia Group operating in Maasin City; Daza-Jasojaso Group operating In Eastern Samar; and the Semblante Group operating in Ormoc City.

In 2004, the PRO-8 has again neutralized and disbanded 18 local drug groups out of the identified 32 active drug groups in Eastern Visayas. Some of these groups were identified by the police as Alegro Group operating in Tacloban City; Cordaño Group operating in Dulag, Leyte; Bañez Group operating in Guiuan, Eastern, Samar; Malic-Muslim Group operating in Ormoc City; Dacallos Group operating in Tacloban City; Martin Drug Group operating in Isabel, Leyte; Peñaranda Group operating in Tacloban City; Con-Ui Group and Diu Group operating in Tacloban City; Callosa Drug Group operating in Palo, Leyte; Kho Drug Group operating in MacArthur, Eastern Samar; the Roble and Mirasol Drug Group, which operates in no permanent areas.

From January 2005 to this date, General Coloma reported that another two drug groups, identified as Arcales Group operating in Catbalogan, Samar and the Ballais Group operating in Tacloban City were also neutralized.

All of these local drug groups were neutralized during the period of August 22, 2002 to August 22, 2005” Coloma said adding that if the group leader or majority of its members were arrested and or gunned down, the group’s operation automatically cease and turned inactive.

The region’s former top police official said the EV police force conducted a total of 461 drug operations that resulted in the arrest of 657 drug pushers and ushers in various buy-bust, raids and searches; 461 cases were filed in court against the suspects and confiscated 1,137.85 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu and 3,158.71 grams of marijuana, 284 sticks of marijuana cigarette, 731.1 pieces fully grown marijuana.

All confiscated prohibited drugs has estimated market value of P2,429,692.25, it was learned.

On the other hand, Coloma further reported that there were 8,379 crimes reported from August 2002 to July 2005, a decrease of 862 or 9.33% compared to last year’s 9,241 incidents. Of the total crime volume, Coloma said, “there were 7,873 crimes solved through the support of his dedicated men and women in the organization.”

Of the recorded total crime volume during the same period, the police recorded a total of 5,090 index crimes; 3,959 were crimes against persons and 1,131 crimes against property. The crimes against persons were defined as murder, homicide, physical injuries, and rape while crimes against property are cases involving robbery and theft.

“When the police and the community combine to fight against criminality, the authors of crime cannot stand on the way,” General Coloma stressed. He added, though, that these accomplishments would not have been possible without the “support” of the community they pledged to serve.

When asked by the media about his secret weapon by achieving these accomplishments, Coloma just smiled and say, “Good image follows performance all the time.”

“As a police officer, we have only two main duties, which are to prevent crime because he can and to solve it because he must. By this, we have no reason not to win the battle in the streets,” Coloma disclosed.





NPA attacked SAMELCO personnel

By 8th Infantry Division PR
September 2, 2005

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan, Samar  -  Undetermined number of fully armed communist terrorists (CTs) attacked Samar II Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SAMELCO II) personnel in Barangay Libas, Catbalogan, Samar on September 1, 2005 at about 3:00 in the afternoon.

The barbaric act resulted to the killing of Engr. Dalmacio Cepeda of Sitio Litong-litong, Lipata, Paranas, Samar; Ben Gabon of Buray, Paranas, Samar; and Ryan Cabrigas of Calbiga, Samar.

According to the wounded engineer who succumbed later while being treated at the Samar Provincial Hospital, they were installing lines when suddenly three (3) shots erupted hitting him at the right side of the body. Another two (2) shots fired where he saw the head of one of his comrades fatally hit. After just a moment, two (2) CTs appeared and shot the lying men at close range. He then heard one of them said that “napagkamalan namon kamo” and disappeared.

The Command is condemning this murder of unarmed civilians in the strongest possible terms. It is a blatant disregard of human rights and dignity. The cowardly act perpetrated by the NPA to the helpless civilians trying to do their job for better delivery of basic services to the Catbaloganons should be condemned by all sectors of society especially the Human Rights advocates.





Cadaver of missing Army sergeant found at Catbalogan Sea

August 31, 2005

CATBALOGAN, Samar  – A composite team belonging to the Catbalogan PNP and the 8th Infantry Division who conducted search operation recovered the cadaver of an Army sergeant earlier reported missing by his relatives Thursday.

The dead body of the victim, identified by the police as certain SSgt. Domingo Ebron Villanueva, 42, married, and presently assigned at 8ID headquarter, Camp Lukban, Brgy. Maulong, Catbalogan, was found floating in the seawaters of Brgy. 9, Pier 1, this municipality.

In a belated investigation report released by the police, around 7:46 in the evening of August 24, 2005, a heated arguments ensued where the victim, who is apparently under the influenced of intoxicating liquor, approached the security guard detailed at the Kim-kim Pharmacy located at corner Del Rosario Street and Curry Avenue, this town.

Sensing that the soldier may draw his gun, the suspect identified as certain Alfredo Datuin y Luceriano, 47, married, and a resident of Brgy. Canlapwas, working as security guard of the Alfa Security Agency wrestled the victim and likewise draw his 29-inches double-bladed knife locally known as Balisong from his waistline and stabbed the victim two times.

The suspect told the police that right after he stabbed the victim, he draw his gun and fired a warning shot which apparently prompted the victim to ran towards Pier 1 and was declared missing.

The victim’s dead body, found next day after the stabbing incident, was then brought by the rescuers to the morgue of the Samar Provincial Hospital (SPH) for autopsy. The victim suffered two fatal wounds on his lower breast and on his right arm.

Catbalogan PNP Chief Inspector Gaudencio Vencio, and his men immediately proceeded to the crime scene and arrested the suspect. The latter did not resist arrest.

Recovered from the possession of the suspect were a 7-inch fan knife and his issued short firearm with unknown caliber. The suspect is now at the PNP lock up cell awaiting appropriate charges to be filed against him.





Samar Island to host Cultural Tourism Festival 2005

August 29, 2005

CATBALOGAN, Samar  –  Regional Director Karina Rosa S. Tiopes of the Department of Tourism in Eastern Visayas recently announced that the island of Samar will be celebrating the 4-day “Hadang 2005 Samar Island Cultural Tourism Festival” on September 5-8, 2005, hosted by the northern city of Calbayog.

In her one-page letter dated August 11, 2005, sent to concerned municipal mayors, tourism officers and other invited guests, she explained that the event aims to foster unity among the people of Samar as they set off to undertake unified programs that would boost the tourism potentials of the whole island.

This summit, Tiopes added, is designed to engage the industry leaders to forge strong partnerships and develop strategies that would somehow propel the growth of the industry. “At the end of the summit, the participants will sign a draft resolution to affirm their commitment to pursue unified and complementary tourism-related programs and activities,” the DOT Director Tiopes said.

The DOT regional chief said expected participants of this summit include the local chief executives, tourism officers, industry stakeholders from private sector and relevant government agencies of the provinces of Samar, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar and the City of Calbayog.

Meanwhile, Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento of the host city of Calbayog said that the major highlight of the festival is the conduct of one-day island wide tourism summit showcasing the different tourism destinations, history, culture and arts, and craft of the different municipalities in the three provinces of Samar, including of the city of Calbayog.

Dubbed as “Kangay” the summit which falls on September 5 carries the theme “Samar: One island, One People, One Culture.”

On this day, Mayor Sarmiento will present this theme or concept of focusing their resources and money on the development and promotion of Samar’s tourism potentials.

Sarmiento hinted that the island of Samar may no longer be participating in the annual holding of WOW Philippines in Intramuros saying that many of our municipalities had been spending so much money in going to Manila but there were no return of investments. “In this concept, we are not only going to promote our beautiful spots here but, more importantly, sigurado naton an return of investments kay di naman mag aalang an mga investors pag kanhi,” Sarmiento said.

Invited to grace the affair, DOT secretary Ace Durano is expected to deliver a message and approve or disapprove the final resolution institutionalizing the Samar: One island, One People, One Culture program thru the establishment of the Samar Island Cultural-Tourism Master Plan and the organization of the Samar Island Cultural-Tourism Council.

This master plan and proposed programs in the island will be discussed by Tiopes while situation reports on current tourism programs will be presented by the three governors representing their respective provinces. Presentation of biodiversity in Samar Island will also be presented by the Samar Island Biodiversity Project (SIBP) based in Catbalogan.

Meanwhile, Jonas T. Lim, the Hadang 2005 Festival Director reiterated to all participating towns to send back their entry on the search for Miss Samar Island Tourism (Miss Anyag 2005), which will be held on the night of September 5; the number of delegates/contingent, contact persons and its contact number to the Samar Island Cultural-Tourism Summit (Sept. 5); Samar Island Tourism Expo (Sept. 5-8); and to the Hadang Streetdance Exhibition (Sept. 7).

Lim said participating groups to the street dance will be given a hot cash of P20,000 as financial reward. “This is no more a competition but a showcase of ritual performance,” Lim told this publication.

“Our only city and towns in the island has its own unique but distinct competitive advantage with regards to tourism, cultural heritage, and natural wonders kaya kinahanglan aton ine nga maging major source of income ngan maka generate hin revenues pagsustenar han aton economic development programs ngan activities dinhe ha Samar,” Mayor Sarmiento disclosed.





Reds in EV ‘quash’ in 196 days operations – Palparan

August 25, 2005

CATBALOGAN, Samar  – The Army’s 8th Infantry division out-going Major General Jovito S. Palparan Jr. today said, the government has neutralized and over-powered the Communist Party of the Philippines’ armed wing New People’s Army in his one hundred nine-six (196) days anti-insurgency campaign in Eastern Visayas.

In his message delivered today during the change of command ceremony in Camp Lukban, Brgy. Maulong here, the general said that the 8ID under his command neutralized at least 80 percent of insurgency problem particularly in Western Samar areas which was earlier considered as the “hotbed” of the NPA guerillas.

On February 10, 2005, or barely six months and thirteen days ago now, his Commander-in-Chief President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo directed Palparan solve and get rid the insurgency problem in Samar Island, which he gladly accepted giving himself a mandate to solve the problem in “six months to a year military combat operations.”

“As I hand over my post, I am proud to report that from February 10, 2005 to date, we have neutralized, at least, seventy-three (73) CPP-NPA’s and recovered twenty-eight (28) high-powered and two hundred nineteen (219) low-powered firearms (in our anti-insurgency campaign in the region),” Gen. Palparan revealed adding that there were also big NPA camps destroyed and overrun by the army but failed to give further details.

Aside from this, General Palparan added, the Army has also neutralized hundreds of the NPA’s intelligence network and support system members who voluntarily surrendered and returned peacefully to the mainstream of society.

Palparan attributed these accomplishments to the support and commitment offered to him by the different sectors in the society, including the media. “I am grateful that you have clearly understood my vision of having a truly and developed region, and I thank you for your display of courage and perseverance,” the general said.

Though saddened by his reassignment to Fort Magsaysay, 7th Infantry Division in Nueva Ecija saying he is now gaining grounds in his anti-insurgency campaign here, he expressed gratitude to the Samareño people who are initially apprehensive due to the “smear campaign or black propaganda” allegedly spread out by his enemies about his credibility, but later on became supportive after experiencing the good result of his deeds.

The general was obviously referring “smear campaign or black propaganda” to the media criticisms, series of human rights violations as alleged by some individuals and groups such as the Interfaith Solidarity Mission (IFSM) and the  International Solidarity Mission (ISM) which composed of human rights advocates from eight countries.

According to these groups, cases of human rights violations reportedly perpetrated by the 8ID under the leadership of General Palparan has reached to an alarming level and this was supported by the statements released the Commission of Human Rights in Region 8 based on their comparative analysis.

The Commission revealed that human rights violations jacked up in the first and second quarter of 2005 in Samar and Leyte areas which involved the harassments and attempted murder of known militant group members and other progressive groups considered by the AFP as fronts of CPP/NPA and civilians suspected by the military as NPA supporters.

In the previous days, cases of mass evacuation were reported in the different municipalities in Samar as a result of intensified combat operations of the 8ID. The operations, both in urban and rural areas, sow fear to civilians and prompted them to leave their farmlands, houses in the remote areas and seek refugee in the poblacion. They blamed the military of their sorry flight.

However, several army officials, including the controversial Gen. Palparan belies all these reports saying that “only those affected of anti-insurgency campaign are spreading the notion that we are behind of these human rights violations and alleged killings,” Palparan once said in an interview.

Meanwhile, during the change of command ceremony this morning, August 25, Palparan requested the public to extend support to Major General Bonifacio Ramos who succeeded him as new 8ID Chief. “My last instruction before finally relinquishing my Command is for the officers, men and women of the 8th Infantry Division… and the people of Region 8 “to extend the same support and commitment to my successor.” The general also thank God for the wisdom, the courage and the strength to uphold his sworn duty of protecting the constitution and the rights of the people.



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