BONGABON, Nueva Ecija: Thousands of peasants and farmers from Central Luzon are set to block the retired Armed Forces of the Philippines chief, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, from sitting as head of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) on Monday for his alleged role in the killing of their leaders from 2005 to 2007.
It was the time, they said over the weekend, when Visaya served as the alleged henchman of now detained Jovito Palparan, then the chief of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.
The peasants, who will reportedly surround the NIA central office in Quezon City today, said Visaya has no moral authority to lead an agriculture-oriented agency because “he was instrumental in stopping the Central Luzon farmers in their pursuit of freedom to produce the food that the nation needed,” Joseph Canlas, Central Luzon chairman of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), said.
Visaya, with the consent of Palparan, according to Canlas, was the one to blame for the death of at least eight peasant leaders in the region, namely, Jhon Facunla Gado, of Guimba, Nueva Ecija; Perla Torno Rodriguez, of Mexico, Pampanga; Tirzo Cruz, a Hacienda Luisita worker; Ricardo Ramos, a farmer-leader in Hacienda Luisita; Federico de Leon, Bulacan coordinator of Anak Pawis; William Tadena, a parish priest in Pampanga; and Bishop Alberto Ravento, a pastor of Iglesia Filipina Independiente; and Francisco “Tatang” Rivera, of Angeles City, Pampanga.
“Our members were accused of being sympathizers of the New People’s Army [NPA]. But they were actually leaders of the poor masses, plain farmers, fighting for our rights as underpaid laborers to till the land and for justice for all their members,” he said.
Canlas also led a protest-rally recently at the Curva village gymnasium in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija during the celebration of International Women’s Day to protect its members’ rights including the women’s right against abusive and unscrupulous onion and palay rice traders who connive with local officials to put in place a price monopoly.
Interviewed by local media here last Wednesday, he alleged that Visaya was an “executioner” and said the KMP and Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon are set on staging a mass protest against the appointment of Visaya as NIA administrator.
Canals claimed that the former military chief was responsible for the abduction and torture of brothers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, the disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan and the militarization of urban poor communities during then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya.
He said Visaya is accused in the killing, torture, abduction and disappearance of farming activists in Mindanao, where he served as commander of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division.
This Army division was said to be responsible for the killing and forcible evacuation of farmers and lumad (indigenous peoples) from their communities in the Caraga and Northern Mindanao regions.
During the start of Oplan Bayanihan under the previous Aquino administration, the Philippine Army’s 69th Infantry Battalion, which Visaya personally trained, was deployed to Davao City where it allegedly unleashed terror on the civilian population.
In 2015, the same Army unit was alleged to be responsible for the strafing of KMP leader Aida Seisa’s home in Davao’s Paquibato district and the killing three people, including a tribal chief.