Displaced families march on Aquino's home
Desperate villagers say their lives are being destroyed
Displaced families stand outside Aquino's residence in Quezon City
Families displaced by military operations against communist rebels in Quezon province marched on President Benigno Aquino’s family home in Quezon City today, to draw his attention to their plight. The protest, supported by rights group Karapatan, coincided with the birthday of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The former strongman’s 20-year rule, which ended in 1986, was littered with human rights violations. “With evacuations going on in many parts of the country...we believe that the Marcos era never left us after martial law," said Cristina Palabay, secretary-general of Karapatan. She said “hamletting” and forced evacuations continue to occur. Hamletting was a counterinsurgency tactic employed by South Vietnamese troops during the Vietnam War, where villagers were rounded up and placed in settlements constructed by troops. Karapatan claimed eight army battalions are deployed in Quezon province, "something that has never happened before, even during the time of martial law." The protesters who called themselves bakwet (evacuees) said they were forced to leave their homes because they were afraid of the soldiers. Orly Marcellana, the protesters’ spokesperson, said government troops have destroyed the lives of villagers and put their safety at serious risk. Several legislators filed a resolution in Congress in June calling for a full investigation into the ongoing military operations in Quezon province. Representative Rafael Mariano of the Anakpawis Party said most victims of illegal arrests and detention, illegal search and seizure, divestment of properties, coercion and threats are ordinary farmers. The resolution still awaits review, three months after it was filed.