Field trip to hell: UP students harassed, terrorized by military in Pampanga
“Akala ko katapusan na namin,” said Anton Dulce, 25 year old University of the Philippines student, as he narrated how he, 2 other students and several locals were harassed, interrogated and assaulted by military men in Porac, Pampanga.
Dulce, Marie Gold Villar, and another who refused to be identified, were on their way to Brgy. Camias, Porac, last January 21 to do their field work, a requirement for their UP’s community development course, when four men in plainclothes, later identified as soldiers from the 70th IB, stopped them.
“They asked us where they were going, asked our names and what we were doing. Initially, they warned us that NPAs were in the area and that we might be caught in a crossire. But later on, we were intensely interrogated and accused of being NPA members,” said Dulce.
At that point, Dulce took out his cellphone and texted fellow students to inform them that they were being held by soldiers.
“Suddenly, one of the men shoved me, slapped me on the shoulders. He shouted invectives at me and challenged me to a fistfight, basically intimidating and harrassing me,” said Dulce.
Dulce said they were made to stand under the sun for more than an hour while being interrogated.
“Pinipilit nila na NPA kami. Sabi nila ‘alam namin ang ginagawa nyo, huwag na kayo magpanggap,’” said Dulce.
The soldiers took photos of them using their cellphones. Another tried to grab Dulce’s backpack. Dulce said a concerned local Aeta also passed and stopped to watch them but was threatened and told to leave.
“Umiyak na si Gold, humagulgol at nagmamakaawa,” said Dulce.
At this point, Gold Villar cried, shouted in English and told the soldiers to let them go, and that they want to go home. At this point, the soldiers let them go but not after forcing them to give their cellfone numbers and threatening them further, saying they should meet back in Manila.
“Naisip namin yung nangyari kina Karen at Sherlyn. Kala namin kami na ang susunod sa poster,” said Dulce, referring to the case of Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan. The two were UP students abducted in Central Luzon in 2006 by suspected military men under General Jovito Palparan. Up to now, the students have yet to be surfaced. Charges have been filed vs Palparan, which caused a warrant of arrest to be issued against him, but “The Butcher” remains at large.
After Dulce and his companions returned to Planas, where they were staying, they were assisted by church people and local Aeta leaders. They filed a police report and later on were informed by the local members of the community that the four men were indeed members of the Philippine Army.
“Talagang inabangan nila kami para takutin kami,” he said.
He said the Aetas are currenly confronting issues regarding the entry of large-scale foreign mining in Mt. Abo, the heart of the Aetas’ ancestral domain.
“The Aetas are opposing the entry of large scale plunderers of their natural resources. Because of this, military activity has intensified,” he said.
The incident caused the UP College of Community Development and Social Work to pull out Dulce and the other students from Pampanga and suspend temporarily the program.
The UP community and youth groups condemned the military harassment and said the incident shows how military terror and human rights violations remain rampant under the current administration of Noynoy Aquino.
Two days after the incident, international Human Rights Watch announced that the Aquino government has failed to address human rights violations and that his government continues to tolerate the abuses being done by the military.
Meanwhile, it was “lesson learned” for the students. Dulce, also vice chairperson of youth group Anakbayan, said it strengthened his resolve to fight for “genuine social change.”
“We were there to understand the situation in the communities. The incident clearly showed the reality that we have a state that is repressive and anti-people. We have a military which violates human rights of the people it is supposed to protect. We definitely should call for real change and expose the anti-people character of the current Aquino government,” he said.