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Rights group reports peasant leader missing in Mindanao

Estelita Tacalan has not been seen since April 27

Rights group reports peasant leader missing in Mindanao
An image of Estelita Tacalan from a poster demanding to know her whereabouts reporter, Cagayan de Oro City

May 6, 2013

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The leader of a prominent peasant group has gone missing in Mindanao, a leading rights group in the Philippines said on Monday.

Estelita Tacalan, 60, was last seen leaving an office in Cagayan de Oro City on April 27 after attending a meeting to organize Labor Day activities for May 1, Karapatan said.

Not a trace of Tacalan, who heads the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipas (KMP), has been seen according to Fr Christopher Ablon, Karapatan’s secretary-general.

Tacalan has been involved in organizing farming communities.

"She was active in protesting against abuses of a despotic landlord and lobbying for peasants' economic and political demands," said Richard Colao, KMP’s secretary-general.

Colao said Tacalan’s disappearance coincided with the appointment of Brig. Gen. Ricardo Visaya as head of the Philippine army’s 4th Infantry Division.

Rights group Karapatan said Visaya once headed a military unit accused of being behind the massacre of peasants in Tarlac province in 2004.

Colao said Tacalan's disappearance w as probably "due to her staunch opposition to anti-peasant policies" of the government and the "inhuman conditions" suffered by farmers in rural areas.

He said it would not be a surprise if state agents are behind her disappearance.

A military spokesman denied any knowledge of Tacalan's whereabouts.

Meanwhile, Col. Roderick Parayno, the new head of the military’s Human Rights Office, has vowed to aggressively pursue investigations into human rights cases allegedly involving soldiers.

Soldiers found to be involved in violations will not be tolerated, he said.

Parayno said the military is put in a bad light every time a rights violation is reported.

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