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EJK of Isabela farmers

05:03 AM October 30, 2017

My name is Violy Mendoza, I am a farmer from the municipality of Benito Soliven in Isabela. I have seven other siblings, all of them are farmers. Like many farmers in our place, we plant hybrid yellow corn to sell and raise chicken for food. And just like everyone else here in our place, we are poor and hardly make both ends meet. More so, though I am a farmer, I do not own any piece of land. I am a mere tenant and so are some of my siblings. My two other brothers, who are the reason why I am writing to you, occasionally hunt in the nearby forest to augment their income from farming. My elder brother Manong Ilyong or Rogelio, who is 61 years old, raised his seven children through such livelihood.

In the early morning of Aug. 28, 2017, my two beloved brothers — while on their way back from hunting — was mercilessly machine-gunned by elements of the 86th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. My brothers live in Barangay Baliao in the town of Benito Soliven, but the incident happened in the remote village of Sitio Lumalog of Barangay Cadalasan, which
is adjacent to our village and part of the municipality of San Mariano.

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The Alpha Coy of 86th IB headed by Lieutenants Alog and Canizares are the ones responsible for the horrible untimely deaths of my brothers. The soldiers have been in the remote farming community for already one week before their murderous action. The soldiers, according to local residents, have taken temporary camp in a higher area very near the hut of my brothers in Sitio Lumalog. The hut is well known to most people in the area and even to the soldiers, as a place where my brothers would rest and take shelter while hunting for wild boars in the nearby forested area.

Soldiers routinely conduct military operations in the said interior barangays of San Mariano and Benito Soliven. Most people would rather stay away from their huts and farms when soldiers are conducting military operations because they are afraid. But because my brothers were certain that the military soldiers would leave them alone as they knew them, Manong
Ilyong and Rolito went on hunting for food and something to sell later.

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But my brothers were wrong. The soldiers waited for them, carefully positioning themselves along the narrow dusty path leading to their hut. In less than a minute of bursts of gunfire, the cruel slaughter of my beloved brothers was over. Their bodies riddled with nearly 15 bullets from the soldiers they thought would leave them alone. One witness attested they heard Manong Roy cry out “…you are shooting civilians.” And then there was silence.

Local people living near the site of that fateful event heard the bursts of gunfire. Fearing it could be someone they know, a local barangay official waited along the path of the soldiers asking to please see the bodies the soldiers were carrying. But the soldiers refused. Immediately there was news over the radio that there was an encounter in the interior barangay of San
Mariano between the AFP and the New People’s Army, further saying that my brothers were rebel insurgents and that they were fatally wounded in the encounter.

My brothers were not fatally wounded in an encounter. They were ambushed and helplessly murdered.

It is difficult to have somebody dear to you die like they were chickens. It is more difficult that the military and the government it serves do not seem to want to be responsible for the murderous act. Several times already, elements of the 86th IB stationed at a nearby village in Barangay Tappa have figured in incidents violating human rights in the area. Now fear is stronger among the people in our barrio. It is like a virus that spreads quickly from household to household. Depriving every man, woman and child of oxygen, of free air, of dreams of freedom. Now everyone seem to be afraid. This is not right. It cannot be right.

So I write to your newspaper, to seek justice for my brothers. So that people may know and they will help us and all other families like us find justice.

Justice for the Mendoza brothers.

Justice for all victims of extrajudicial killings.

VIOLY MENDOZA, Barangay Baliao, Benito Soliven, Isabela, c/o [email protected]

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