MANILA - A small group of farmers from Eastern Visayas and militant groups gathered outside the gate of Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City Thursday to decry alleged soldiers' abuses in their villages.
The farmers, mostly from Northern Samar, arrived at Gate 2 of Camp Aguinaldo in two jeepneys Thursday morning, waving their protest flags and sharing stories of alleged military abuses, hoping authorities would take notice.
Maricris Pajanilla, who hails from the town of Las Navas, wept as she recalled how troops allegedly forced farmers like her to go to the village center and deliver bamboo rods needed as materials for the fence of a military encampment in their area.
"Kami pa po pinagpakuha ng kanilang ibabakod, dahil kung hindi daw po kami kukuha ng ibabakod, hindi kami makaka-signature. 'Pag nakita daw po nila... na hindi kami naka-signature, ibig sabihin daw po eh mga NPA (New People's Army) kami," she said, referring to the communist rebel group.
The farmer and her family were also among thousands of Warays who had to endure the destruction wrought by Super Typhoon "Yolanda" (international name: Haiyan) in 2013. The mother of seven now finds it difficult to live a normal life because of alleged militarization in their barangay.
"'Yung mga anak namin hindi na nakatapos ng pag-aaral dahil nag-alisan na mga teacher doon. 'Yung anak ko, disabled pa 'yun, ayaw nang pumunta doon, pursigido 'yun sa pag-aaral. Pero ano pong magagawa namin? 'Yung mga teacher natatakot po sila," Pajanilla added.
She said residents tried to raise the issue with barangay officials in their village, who vowed to elevate the matter to their town leaders. Sadly, the mother shared, no one in their area has the courage to question acts allegedly being done by soldiers in their village.
Kabataan Party-List Representative Sarah Elago joined the farmers in their protest. The young legislator expressed dismay over concerns raised by the farmers.
"Mga blangkong papel, pinapapirma sa kanila. Because of hunger, they are forced to sign these papers in exchange for very small assistance. Tapos 'yun pala, 'yung paper na 'yun ay ano na, nagsasabi na sila ay fake surrenderees, at sila ay tinutulak pa at pinu-puwersa na magtrabaho" said Elago.
Elago earlier delivered a privilege speech before the House of Representatives calling for an investigation on the alleged military abuses.
The protesters left the area after an hour of activity.
The military leadership has been informed of the protest, but no statement has been issued on the farmers' allegations.