Militant groups in Batangas seek LGU action on harassment claims

by Rafael Madalos

In a bid to prevent further cases of harassment by suspected members of the military, representatives of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Batangas (BAYAN-Batangas) and other progressive groups under its umbrella held a dialogue with city officials and local law enforcement officers at the Lipa City Hall, Lipa City, Batangas, on May 4, 2011.

“The primary aim of this dialogue is to let the (city) mayor and all other concerned officials know that we, as a legitimate people’s organization, are experiencing harassment in their area,” Juna Arante, Secretary-General of BAYAN-Batangas, stated in an interview.

She pointed out that most of these instances of harassment came in the form of bike riders stopping near their office at Brgy. 7, Sinagtala, Lipa City, and taking pictures of the building and its occupants, as noted in their letter addressed to city Mayor Meynard Sabili. The said letter also indicated similar incidents of harassment being perpetrated towards officers and members of groups working with BAYAN-Batangas.

Arriving at the city hall at 2:00 pm, the representatives expected to be met by Mayor Sabili along with officers from the 2nd Infantry Division. Instead, the party was met only by Lipa City PNP Chief Col. Alexander Medina, who noted that the matter was forwarded to him by the Mayor.

During the duration of the dialogue, Arante and the other representatives reiterated the need to immediately resolve these security issues. They pointed out that they decided to take action to avoid serious consequences. Furthermore, they stated that they have no other suspects in mind but the military.

Also a concern of BAYAN-Batangas is the alleged illegal deployment of soldiers in various rural communities. They expressed dismay over the presence of armed troops in civilian locations.

Medina, on the other hand, responded that such cases which involve the armed forces are already out of the jurisdiction of the PNP. He even stated that he was surprised that the matter was forwarded to his office, and not to the military officials concerned. However, he pointed out that as peacekeepers, it is their job to respond to such cases without exception.

On the part of troop deployments, the police chief said that the local government has been notified of these actions because the officers concerned have to make a courtesy call to the Mayor’s Office before conducting operations in their area. Therefore, the local populace should not be worried.

The dialogue concluded at 3:30 pm with both parties agreeing that the meeting will be part of official police records. They also agreed that a formal blotter will be filed at the city police office.

“I believe we’ve reached our objectives for this dialogue,” Arante stated. “We’ve managed to file our concerns with the local authorities, to let them know that we are experiencing such violations. We will still seek further actions and will be following this case up to the end.”

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