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Freeman Region

CHR probes farmer's plaint invited to get financial aid, but presented as ex-rebel

Juancho R. Gallarde - The Freeman

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines - — The Commission on Human Rights is now looking into the complaint of a farmer, who was presented to the public as among the 31 rebel returnees during the declaration of Negros Oriental as a conflict manageable and development ready  province in rites last May 7.

In a press conference yesterday, a certain Gennie Labrador, from Siaton town, refuted published reports and pronouncements that he was a rebel who had just surrendered and returned to the folds of the law. Labrador said he "was an ordinary farmer and not a member of the underground movement."

He further claimed that certain individuals from the Provincial Social Welfare Office invited him to come to the Capitol supposedly to receive financial assistance from the government, only to find out that he was with 30 other RRs sitting in front of the stage where the ceremony was conducted at the Negros Oriental Convention Center.

In the same press conference, Karapatan provincial chairman Jose Luis Blanco and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan provincial chairman Favian Magallanes strongly condemned what they alleged was a "clear manipulation" of the 79th IB to take advantage of the farmer's little knowledge, in violation of human rights.

Magallanes said the case of Labrador was a clear indication of the Philippine Army's desperate move to hit its target of six months to declare the province free of insurgents, and that "a fake surrender" was necessary in order to showcase them during the declaration ceremony.

Labrador was in the past sued by the DENR for engaging in slash and burn (kaingin) agriculture, while his son Toto was accused of murder for the death of an NPA member who has returned to the folds of the law, said Magallanes.

CHR field investigator Jess Cañete was initially surprised about Labrador's revelation and immediately conducted his own investigation by gathering documents about the legitimacy of the farmer's inclusion as among the 30 RRs.

Cañete wanted to summon Labrador, including representatives from Karapatan provincial and Bayan Negros Oriental, the 79th IB and DSWD to shed light on the matter.

Governor Roel Degamo immediately directed PSWO officer Alice Lagarde to respond to the serious allegations of Labrador.

Lagarde, in an interview, said she personally interviewed Labrador last April 7 at the 79th IB headquarters in Siaton town, along with 16 other RRs, adding that she can present evidence and documentations that Labrador had surrendered and was willing to avail of government assistance, while in the process of profiling the RRs.

Lagarde said that for an RR to avail himself of the government aid, under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP), which includes an immediate assistance of P15,000, livelihood assistance of P50,000 and financial assistance of P3,000 from the provincial government.

With Lagarde's explanation, Cañete said he would tend to believe that Labrador, for being an RR, has qualified to receive financial, cash and livelihood assistance, but he would try to look into the RRs' pronouncement as authentic and without malice.

Lieutenant Col. Harry Pascua, 79th IB commanding officer, for his part, said records of Labrador's surrender and other pertinent documentations are now with the CHR.  (FREEMAN)

ALICE LAGARDE

BAYAN NEGROS ORIENTAL

COMPREHENSIVE LOCAL INTEGRATION PROGRAM

FAVIAN MAGALLANES

GENNIE LABRADOR

GOVERNOR ROEL DEGAMO

HARRY PASCUA

HUMAN RIGHTS

JESS CA

LABRADOR

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