Missing Isabela farmers found in army camp – rights group

November 18, 2017 - 1:43 PM
The headquarters of the Army's 86th IB, where two missing farmers are said to be kept. PHOTO COURTESY OF KARAPATAN

BAGUIO CITY — Two farmers from Barangay Diasan, Echague, Isabela earlier reported missing by the rights group Karapatan-Cagayan Valley since November 13, 2017 have been found: in the custody of the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) inside their headquarters at Sitio Balabal, Barangay Uno in Jones town in Isabela.

Farmers and cousins Oliver Molina and Robert Dalupang were said to be tending to their swidden farms in the mountains of Barangay Diasan just before they disappeared. An earlier alert by rights group Karapatan said that when the farmers did not return and their families went to search for them, they saw traces of combat shoes in the area, where some soldiers reportedly reside.

Karapatan said the search party even met soldiers in the area, and asked them if they saw their relatives. The soldiers allegedly claimed said they did not see them and told them that the pair might have joined the New People’s Army (NPA).

The group also added that the 86th IB troopers are conducting military operations in the place.

Karapatan and the farmers’ organization Danggayan dagiti Mannalon ti Isabela (Unity of farmers of Isabela or Dagami) subsequently went to the army camp to check on the situation of Molina and Dalupang, whom they heard were brought there. They were told by a certain Technical Sgt. Fernando Baldomero that they need to wait for a “third party” to talk to them.

“Hindi sinasagot ng mga sundalo nang maayos ang aming mga tanong hinggil sa paghuli nila sa dalawang magsasaka. Ayon pa sa mga sundalo ay ayaw umano kaming harapin ng mga biktima kaya hindi namin nakausap ang mga ito,” (The soldiers are not properly answering our queries on the arrest of the two. According to the soldiers, the farmers refuse to see us, so we cannot talk to them).

Karapatan said the soldiers would not even say what charges the two farmers are facing.