HomeNewsFisher group decries PH Army harassment of Zambales fishers

Fisher group decries PH Army harassment of Zambales fishers

Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) once again raised the alarm over incidents of harassment experienced by fishers in Zambales.

Pamalakaya said fishers who joined their group’s two-day fishing expedition last May 30 to 31 in Zambales have been experiencing a series of harassment from members of the Philippine Army.

According to the Pamalakaya-affiliated Panatag Fisherfolk Association, fisherfolk in Masinloc town were first visited by a soldier belonging to the 69th Infantry Battalion on June 1.

The soldier asked the association’s president about the fishing expedition and other information about the group, including the whereabouts of their members.

The same soldier returned on June 12 and attempted to talk to the local leader of the town, but failed. The official then proceeded to question the members of the association, prodding them with the same questions and fishing information about the group and Pamalakaya.

This time, the members of the association said that the army officer was also showing them photos of some of the organizers of Pamalakaya and accusing them of alleged recruiters of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The last incident they recorded was on June 13, when an army officer went to the houses of fisherfolk who joined the fishing exhibition. According to the members, they were also asked the same questions about the expedition and the group.

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Because of the increasing cases of harassment against its members, Pamalakaya filed a letter of complaint with the Commission of Human Rights over the weekend.

In a letter addressed to CHR Chair Richard Palpal-latoc, the group called for an on-site investigation in Masinloc town where the members are reportedly being harassed.

They claimed that during the “visits,” the Philippine Army red-tagged their members. This, they added, goes against the Supreme Court ruling on the dangers of red-tagging.

“The military should have no business with Pamalakaya’s members and the organization’s legitimate activities,” said Pamalakaya in their complaint.

The livelihoods of fisherfolk in Zambales have been affected by the rising tension in the West Philippine Sea. They are also experiencing lower catch due to recurring seasonal loss called “sigwada.”

Apart from the incidents cited above, another elderly leader of Pamalakaya was also earlier subjected to harassment.

“Instead, the military should be securing our territorial waters and protecting our fishers against foreign aggressors, not surveilling fisherfolk who actively uphold their fishing rights,” the group added.

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