From October 30 to November 5, more than 2,000 peasants encamped in the plaza of Barangay San Miguel to demand the demilitarization of their communities in Las Navas and Catubig, Northern Samar.
Amid relentless harassment, the peasants demonstrated their firm unity and collective determination to fight. They said that the continuous operation of the military in their communities will only further strengthen and broaden the resistance as it shall certainly rouse into action not only the residents of Las Navas and Catubig but also those from other towns.
Since Duterte’s visit in the province last September, the AFP started to deploy more troops within the area. Detachments and military camps have long existed in barangays San Miguel, Poponton and Taylor in Las Navas, and Barangay Carawag in Lao-ang. Meanwhile, the AFP conducts combat operations, under the guise of “peace and development,” in barangays San Miguel, San Francisco, Quirino, Perez, Magsaysay, San Antonio, Imelda, Capotoon, Cuenco, Avelino, Victory and Lakandula in Las Navas; Tubang and Gibunawan in Silvino Lobos; Rumbang, Lanubi and Tangbo in Lao-ang; and Capacujan in Palapag.
The peasants unrelentingly opposed the militarization of their communities which has further aggravated their poverty and hunger.
Last October 18, more or less 100 residents from eight barrios marched and converged in front of the municipal hall of Las Navas and submitted their petition to demilitarize their communities. Meanwhile, elements of the 20th IB roadblocked around 30 members of Northern Samar Small Farmers Association (NSSFA) who were bound to attend a dialogue with the mayor of Las Navas. They also submitted a petition and resolution to the Commission of Human Rights in Tacloban City.
The residents said that the encampment of the AFP in their communities sown intense fear among them and even affected their livelihood. The troopers also continues to harass and vilify members of Katungod Sinirangang Bisayas at NSSFA.
Last November 7, elements of the 803rd IBde forcibly brought Alfredo Pajanilla, a barangay official of San Francisco, Las Navas, to their camp to supposedly talk to Major General Raul Farnacio, commander of the 8th ID. Meanwhile, 20th IB troopers roadblocked the convoy of delegates from Northern Samar who were bound to join the mobilization spearheaded by the People’s Surge in Tacloban City. The delegates were forced to go home because their drivers were threatened by the soldiers.
In Bicol, the 31st IB occupied no less than nine barangays in Casiguran, Gubat and Barcelona, Sorsogon. The residents said that the soldiers established a Barangay Defense System wherein residents are coerced to “guard” their communities. The soldiers also assembled the youth and slandered the revolutionary movement. Meanwhile, those who they suspect of supporting the NPA are subjected to interrogation. The residents also complained against the anti-social activities of the soldiers in the barangay including their drinking-sprees and cockfighting.