National Democratic Front
National Democratic Front

Calling on the Aquino government to end impunity and disband the 19th IB of the Philippine Army, the National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today expressed outrage and condoled with the families of victims of a massacre by soldiers from the battalion in Brgy. Hiagsam, Jaro. Leyte this March 12.

“We strongly condemn the deaths of three civilians as well as the injuries to others committed by Cpl. Baltazar Nacion and PFC Robert Abrante from the 19th IB, the notorious “massacre battalion” in Leyte,” said NDF-EV spokesperson Fr. Santiago “Sanny” Salas.

“We call attention to the fact that this is the second massacre of the 19th IB under the Aquino government, the first having resulted in the deaths of renowned botanist Leonard Co and two others in 2011.

“It is also the fifth massacre committed by the 19th IB in more than a decade, killing more than 20 civilians, yet no soldier has ever been punished. This is aside from extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, such as the murder of Typhoon Yolanda survivor and activist Jefferson Custodio in Carigara, Leyte last year.

All these innocent civilians are victims of the Philippine government’s long-running militarization of the countryside, currently under the banner of the Aquino regime’s Oplan Bayanihan.”

Fr. Salas said the bloodstained record of the 19th IB points to the Aquino regime’s continuation of the impunity enjoyed by his predecessors.

“The drunken rampage by 19th IB troopers is no random act of violence but characteristic of the systematic violence of militarization under Benigno Aquino III.

Eastern Visayas remains a national priority in the Aquino regime’s all-out war against the revolutionary movement. There are more than 15,000 military and police in the region who join forces in carrying out the regime’s Oplan Bayanihan.

Aside from waging all-out war against the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army, militarism also runs high in the Aquino regime’s civilian agencies that are tapped to support the “counterinsurgency” campaign.

With US backing through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, billions of pesos of pesos are poured by the Aquino government into cosmetic projects such as roads and bridges, especially in areas deemed as revolutionary strongholds.

However, fundamental socio-economic reforms are lacking and the people furthermore seethe at the Aquino regime’s utter lack of concern for the typhoon survivors, among other basic issues.”

The NDF-EV expressed full support for the struggle for justice of the 19th IB’s victims, and urged the public to stand up and demand the disbanding of the 19th IB.

“The 19th IB is a notorious unit in that criminal organization known as the Armed Forces of the Philippines. No one has ever been brought to justice for the battalion’s five massacres and other human rights violations.

The latest atrocity by the 19th IB goes to show that respect for human rights and international humanitarian law is not merely an issue for a few, but the basic interest of the people. Thus the people must carry the fight towards ending Oplan Bayanihan, ending impunity, ousting the Aquino regime, and demanding a transition at the least to a better system of governance that upholds human rights and punishes human rights violators.”#