Human rights groups:

AFP must respect Lumads’ right to self-determination,
keep out of Lumad communities

 

Tandag, Surigao del Sur

 

Aigist 31. 2009

 

 

 

The Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace called on the military to stay out of Lumad communities and respect their right to live in peace and self-determined development in their ancestral lands.

The EMJP made the call as part of the National Solidarity Mission that joins the almost 2,000 Lumad evacuees bound for home today in the towns of Lianga, San Agustin and Tago after staying more than a month at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Tandag. The evacuees agreed to return after a 30-person monitoring team visited their villages on August 26 and found that the military had pulled out of the area.

 

/p

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Photos courtesy of  KARAPATAN, MAPASU and KALUMARAN

Stills are from the KODAO video

           
           

 


Press Statement – August 25, 2009
References: Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Secretary General (09178176274)
DJ Acierto, Public Information Officer (09189790580)

Stop military operations in Manobo communities in Surigao!

The human rights alliance Karapatan denounces the continued military operations of the 58th IBPA at Lianga, Surigao del Sur which caused the evacuation of over 300 families or 1,795 individuals, mostly lumads (indigenous peoples), from their homes.

We believe that the AFP’s so-called “community projects” for “peace and development” are not sincere efforts to aid the Manobo tribesmen who, on their own and with no government help, have established their own livelihood and educational structures in their communities. We believe that the AFP’s “community projects” are merely a ruse to ensure that the community will not hinder the access of the big, private mining corporations to the rich mining grounds of which these areas have, and that the evacuation of the communities will also ensure that the military meets its Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) deadline of purportedly wiping out the insurgency by 2010.

In 2005 and 2007, the 58th IBPA’s occupation of the lumad communities in Surigao del Sur resulted in incidents of killings, abductions, torture, threat and harassment of individuals and families, aside from forced evacuation and destruction of the lumads’ properties and farms.

Now, in 2009, the military is again creating a humanitarian crisis in the same areas, accusing the people of being NPA members and sympathizers and forcing them to have the military’s brand of “community projects for peace and development.”

The military not only uprooted the families from their homes but also threatened their livelihoods, and their lives -- living within civilian homes, schools and other public places with their high-powered firearms, building a virtual garrison in the middle of civilians communities, enforcing strict military checkpoints, limiting the entry of food into the communities, and forcing the lumads to enlist in their paramilitary groups. Fearing for their lives, the lumads were forced to flee their communities and evacuated in the town centers where they become hungry and sick.

Presently, there are acres of unharvested farmlands in municipalities of Lianga, San Isidro and Tago, Surigao del Sur which is not accessible to the residents due to the military’s operations in the communities.

We believe that the increasing number of internally displaced persons in the country today is attributed the military’s scampering to meet their OBL agenda. This mad worn out strategy of wiping the insurgency by “military and civic programs” is creating a humanitarian crisis in Mindanao; the Moro peoples have yet to return to their communities, and now the government troops are still uprooting more communities in more areas of Mindnao.

We call the attention of pertinent government agencies, such as the Commission on Human Rights, the Congress to look into this military program which causes the grave consequences for the residents of Surigao del Sur and other places.

We are one with the lumads who call for the pull out of military troops from their communities, and to end Oplan Bantay Laya now. ##
 

     
           
           

 

TASK FORCE SURIGAO
 

”PAGBAWI SA KINABUHI, PAGBAWI SA YUTANG KABILIN”
(Reclaiming our Lives, Reclaiming our Ancestral Lands)

Press Statement
25 August 2009

On August 28, 2009 Task Force Surigao, a National Support Network for the evacuees of Surigao del Sur composed of organizations and individuals concerned with the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples affected by militarization and displacements will lead a solidarity mission to Tandag, Carrascal and Lianga Surigao del Sur.

The solidarity group led by Gabriela Women’s Party List Representative Luz Ilagan, KARAPATAN Chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez and KAMP Spokersperson Nelson Mallari will first visit the Manobo evacuees at the Diocese Pastoral Center on August 29. They will also hold dialogues with the Provincial Government of Surigao del Sur, military officials and Bishop Nereo Odchimar. Medical professionals and volunteers will give medical services to the evacuees and relief goods will be distributed

A part of the team will visit evacuees from Brgy. Pantukan, Carrascal who are now at the Adlay gym. They will meet with the mayor and interview the lumad victims.

In the next two days after that, the team will accompany the Manobo men back to their community to harvest their crops as well as to retrieve some more of their personal belongings.

The event will be concluded by press conferences in Butuan, Davao and Manila by delegates of the mission team.

The solidarity group hopes to help expose to the public the ongoing militarization of different communities in Surigao del Sur as well as to give immediate assistance to the lumad evacuees. It is also hoped that the mission will be able to help put pressure on the national government to pull out the troops from the area and assure the people that they will be able to go back to their communities and regain their peaceful existence.

There are currently 1,795 Lumad residents from Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur taking temporary shelter at the DPC in Tandag. They fled their homes starting June 17 and July 18 when elements of the 58th Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Benjamin Pedralvez came and announced that they would be implementing “development projects”.

Contrary to this, government troops harassed the students and teachers of schools of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCAVDEV) and Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS). A food blockade was instigated by requiring the people to acquire permits from the barangay and municipal gov’t agencies to allow them entry of food purchases that the military suspected were being passed on to the NPA and not fed to the school children.

The soldiers also went house-to-house, recruiting the Lumad people to join the para-military group Task Force Gantangan-Bagani Force and when they were refused the soldiers accused them outright that they were indeed members of the NPA.

To avoid suffering the worst kinds of human rights violations experienced in 2005 and 2007, the Manobo people from Diatagon were forced to leave their homes to seek safer grounds.

Reference: Rep. Luzviminda C. Ilagan, Task Force Surigao – Spokesperson
 

     
     

 

Press Statement
August 27, 2009

AFP DISTORTING FACTS, FABRICATING EVIDENCE

We, the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural ang Livelihood Development Inc. (ALCADEV Inc.), strongly condemn and belie the accusation made by Armed Forces spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, published in the Philippine Star last August 27, about the ALCADEV High school in Diatagon, Lianga.

Accusation 1: “That ALCADEV Inc. is not accredited by the Department of Education.”

While it is true that the ALCADEV Inc. is not accredited by the DepEd, the ALCADEV IS RECOGNIZED by the DepEd.

In 2007 , ALCADEV applied for DepEd accreditation and was told after by the Regional Chief ALS of DepEd Caraga-Mrs. Nenita Gonzalez that its curriculum SURPASSED the requirements for the Alternative Learning System (ALS). As such,Mrs. Gonzalez suggested ALCADEV apply for formal and private school accreditation keeping the characteristic of an “Indigenized Curriculum”. Before the evacuation, it was in the process of completing the requirements set by the DepEd for accreditation into a formal highschool. One of the newer buildings at the ALCADEV Highschool grounds was built to accomplish the library and laboratory , one of the biggest requirements set by the DepEd.

Accusation 2: That ALCADEV Inc. “Was being used by the New People's Army (NPA) to train its cadres; …does not teach its students to sing the National Anthem but the revolutionary song Internasyunal which is also the NPA's anthem; ...even the identification cards that were taken by the soldiers bear the symbols of the NPA, bolstering their suspicion that the school was training cadres for the rebel movement.”

These charges are nothing but attempts to smear the good name of the School. The evidences they showed were fabricated.

The ALCADEV high school has a curriculum equal if not surpassing, most of the alternative learning centers in the country. In 2007 the ALCADEV High school was visited by the judges of the DepEd’s National Literacy Award for non-formal schools. The judges informed the ALCADEV Inc. that the school is qualified to apply for the National Literacy Award.

ALCADEV graduates are accepted to the Accreditation and Equivalency Exams of the DepEd. Last school year, five of the ALCADEV graduates passed but only two could afford college. This school year, there were 55 learners are about to take the A and E but only 14 were able to comply with the requirements before evacuation happened.

The achievements of the school and its students speaks for itself for how can a school accomplish such when it teaches another?

Accusation 3: “Because of that information, our government forces started to ask what is the true nature of that school, but while in the process of asking, the people running the non-government organization told the residents in the area to transfer or move to evacuation centers, claiming that they could get caught in the crossfire, and then they did not want the lumads to talk to the military.”

THIS IS AN OUTRIGHT LIE. How can ALCADEV influence the people when the military men were in the houses of the civilians, monitoring their movements? It was the people themselves, harassed by the military presence and afraid for their safety and wellbeing, who decided to evacuate. The teachers of the ALCADEV High School had to go with the people’s decision. This accusation shows how much the military belittle the lumads, believing them unable to think and decide for themselves.

The lumad people evacuated because, they as a community and as individuals, have been victims of various human rights violations for years and they do not want to experience the worst of those again.

Accusation 4: ”Soldiers didn't occupy lumad school in Surigao Sur”

ALCADEV never said that the soldiers of the 58th IB PA occupied any lumad school in July preceding the evacuation. What the military men did was to station themselves and their binoculars and cameras in front of the ALCADEV Highschool’s entrance. What they did was go inside the school grounds on the pretext of fetching water. What they did was distribute among students the surrender flyers for the NPAs. What they did was tell the students to “encourage their “ates” and “kuyas’” to surrender. What they did was tell the students how much money they would receive if they can get the guns of the NPAs.

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner should not believe everything that Col. Danilo Fabian, Commanding Officer of the 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army and Lt.Col. Benjamin Pedralvez, Commanding Officer of the 58th Infantry Battalion report to him as both might be lying to save themselves from the liability of human rights violations. ►►►
 

 

ALLIANCE OF CONCERNED TEACHERS
2/F Teachers’ Center, Mines St. cor. Dipolog St., Bgy. VASRA, Quezon City, Philippines
Telefax 453-9116 Mobile 0920-9220817 Email act_philippines@yahoo.com Website www.actphils.com
Member, Education International

August 25, 2009
NEWS RELEASE
Reference: Antonio L. Tinio (0920-9220817)
ACT Chairperson

Teachers call for halt to military operations to allow resumption of Manobo children’s schooling in Surigao del Sur

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers today denounced ongoing military operations in Lianga, Surigao del Sur that have displaced over 1,700 Manobos from their highland communities and disrupted the schooling of over 400 children.

On July 13, around 300 soldiers belonging to the 36th and 58th Infantry Battalions of the 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army occupied a number of Manobo communities in the hinterlands of Lianga, Surigao del Sur. After experiencing harassment and intimidation, including food blockades, illegal checkpoints, and attempts to recruit members of the community into a paramilitary unit, 303 families composed of 1,795 individuals evacuated to the Lianga Municipal Gym on July 18. Subsequently, they moved to the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Tandag City, where they currently remain.

“Due to the military operations, 16 private elementary schools and one high school, all run by Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS), a non-governmental organization working with the Manobo communities in the area, have been unable to hold classes. This has affected the schooling of over 300 elementary school children and 126 high school students, most of whom are Manobo,” said ACT national chairperson Antonio Tinio.

Lt. Col. Benjamin Pedralvez, Jr., battalion commander of the 58th IB, has claimed that the high school, known as the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), is a communist front organization and that its teachers and staff have been infiltrated by the New People’s Army.

“We denounce the military’s labeling of ALCADEV, a legitimate educational institution accredited by the Department of Education, as a communist front organization. We demand that they desist from further harassment and intimidation of ALCADEV teachers, staff and students,” said Tinio. “We fear for their safety, since it’s well known that such communist labeling usually precedes the extra-judicial killings and abductions attributed to the military.”

Tinio noted that the municipality of Lianga is among the areas of Surigao del Sur identified as a prospective coal mining area and offered for bidding to foreign investors last May as part of the government’s Philippine Energy Contracting Round 2009. “Therefore, these military operations are intended to target lumad communities that are likely to resist the entry of foreign mining companies into their ancestral lands. In the process, we’re witnessing gross violations of the human rights of hundreds of Manobo families, including their children’s right to education. We call on Malacañang to pull out the troops from Lianga, allow the Manobos to return to their homes, and their children to resume their schooling.”

This morning, ACT led a delegation that included a teacher and a student of ALCADEV in a dialogue with officials of the Department of Education in order to highlight the plight of the Manobo children victimized by militarization. “We call on Sec. Jesli Lapus to take steps to ensure that the children in the area are not deprived of their right to education,” said Tinio. #

=====================================================================

 

The vilification campaign of the 58th IB PA against the ALCADEV Highschool, may probably have the objective of taking over the school and turning it into one that the military built and with which they can boast as their accomplishment.

EDUCATION IS EVERYONE’S RIGHT AND MUST BE RESPECTED.

Marife B. Magbanua Sr Helen S. Makiling , MSM , PhD
Executive Director, ALCADEV Inc. CHAIRPERSON of the Board
Reference #: 09206386278 ALCADEV Inc.
Ref # : 09274824546

-------------------------------

The above is statement by Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural ang Livelihood Development Inc. (ALCADEV) in response to the military's vilification campaign against the lumad high school in Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

Task Force Surigao, a national solidarity mission composed of human rights, civil society and church groups, is now accompanying the displaced residents back to their homes after the members of the AFP left their communities. The AFP is still denying that they conducted a military operation in the area and there is still no assurance that they will no longer return.

 

           
           
 
 
kodaophil

 
Kodao's video coverage of the National Solidarity Mission for Surigao del Sur evacuees.

Here's the first video feed uploaded directly from the fact finding mission area.

 

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ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT FOR JUSTICE & PEACE (EMJP)
Address 2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Streets, Central District, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
Telefax 632-4342837
Email emjp2004@yahoo.com

Press statement
August 30, 2009
Reference: Girlie Padilla (09088941870)
Secretary General

AFP must respect Lumads’ right to self-determination,
keep out of Lumad communities


TANDAG, SURIGAO DEL SUR – The Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace called on the military to stay out of Lumad communities and respect their right to live in peace and self-determined development in their ancestral lands.

The EMJP made the call as part of the National Solidarity Mission that joins the almost 2,000 Lumad evacuees bound for home today in the towns of Lianga, San Agustin and Tago after staying more than a month at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Tandag. The evacuees agreed to return after a 30-person monitoring team visited their villages on August 26 and found that the military had pulled out of the area.

The military however said the pull out was only “temporary.”

“We are elated as we join the 15 Lumad communities return to their homes. But we also like to remind the Armed Forces of the Philippines to respect the rights to self-determination of the indigenous peoples, specially these Lumad communities whose own efforts at education and agriculture are already flourishing, but were disrupted by the military presence and activities,” said Girlie Padilla, acting EMJP secretary general.

The EMJP is co-convenor of Task Force Surigao which is now in Tandag, Surigao del Sur together with some 161 participants from Manila, Marawi, Iligan, Cagayan de Oro and Davao City.

In June and July, Manobo residents of 15 communities from the towns of Lianga, San Agustin and Tago left their homes due to the heavy presence of the military who imposed a food blockade, conducted harassment in the tribal schools and forcible recruitment of Lumads to the paramilitary group Task Force Gantangan.

The first evacuees in June sought shelter at the Lianga Municipal Gym but soldiers of the 58th IBPA followed and continued harassing them. Along with more evacuees, they moved to Tandag and brought their complaints to Provincial Governor Vicente T. Pimentel.

In several dialogues with the military and the provincial government, the evacuees refused to return home as the military also refused to leave and insisted on implementing the “Kalayaan sa Barangay” or so-called development projects, such as the construction of waiting sheds and roads.

“The military insists on maintaining their presence in the guise of development, but these are actually clearing operations to pave the way for the entry of mining and logging companies in the mineral and timber-rich Andap Valley,” Padilla said. The military operations were concentrated in the said area. The Lumads had protested the entry of private companies to protect their ancestral lands from being ravaged by extracting activities.

The military troops’ withdrawal was timed just as Commission on Human Rights Chair Leila de Lima visited the Tandag evacuaees on Friday, Aug. 28.

Padilla said that the Lumad communities have actually thrived when they are left in peace. In 2005 and 2007, these communities had also evacuated due to heavy military operations and returned to ravaged homes and farms. The mostly Manobo residents were, however, able to quickly recover with motivation from the Lumad organization MAPASU (Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod) and the tribal schools and its agriculture programs.

 

“We admire the spirit of the Lumad tribes who, in spite of the difficulties, remain steadfast to protect their unity and their rights as a people. This is what they assert and they deserve to have,” Padilla said.

However, the military told the Task Force Surigao team that they only left temporarily and were going back to the communities because it was a known “red guerilla base” and they had to clear the area of armed rebels to be able to implement their “peace and development projects.” On August 29, the Task Force Surigao held an audience with the Provincial Administrative Officer Johnny T. Pimentel, Tandag Mayor Alexander Pimentel, together with military officials led by 401st Infantry Brigade Commanding Officer Col. Danilo Fabian and Lt. Col. Benjamin Pedralvez of the 58th IBPA.

With this pronouncement, EMJP together with the various people’s organizations and human rights groups who joined the National Solidarity Mission to Surigao del Sur urges the municipal and provincial governments as well as the religious groups led by Tandag Bishop and incoming CBCP President Bp. Nereo Odchimar to help monitor as well as to continue extending their support to the Lumads of Surigao del Sur should military operations disrupt their normal lives once more and commit more human rights violations. ###

** EMJP is a member organization of Karapatan, and a convenor of Task Force Surigao National Solidarity Mission. TF Surigao is sending updates from the lumad communities.

 

     

 

           
     
           

 

Church-based groups back call for military withdrawal from Lumad communities
 

The Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace together with the Ecumenical Mission for Peace and Development support the demand of the Lumad people in Surigao del Sur for the immediate pull out of the 58th Infantry Battalion from their communities so they can go back to their homes.

“The deployment of military troops in Lianga and San Agustin has disrupted the lives and livelihood of the Lumads. Worse, the soldiers have targeted the existing non-formal schools in the area and have caused the suspension of classes in the tribal schools,” said Girlie Padilla, EMJP deputy secretary general.

A total of 1,795 residents from 15 communities mostly in barangay Diatagon in Lianga and San Agustin towns are currently staying in tents at the Diocese Pastoral Center (PDC) in Tandag, Surigao del Sur. They moved out of their communities in two waves on June 18 and July 18 after the deployment of elements of the 58th IBPA led by Col. Pedralvez supposedly to implement development projects directed to them by the national government.

The people complained about the food blockade imposed by the military who had banned the entry of more than five kilos of rice into the communities. They expressed fear for their lives with the continued presence of the soldiers who forcibly stayed at the civilians’ homes.

“They buy rice and other food items in bulk because their villages are far from the market and transportation cost is high. Five kilos last only a few days. They can’t expect the villagers to go to market everyday,” said Padilla.

Padilla added that the people were also protesting the recruitment of Lumads into the Task Force Gantangan, a military-led civilian armed group, which they said were meant to destroy the unity of the tribal peoples. The military also branded the local tribal group MAPASU as an NPA front.

“If it’s true that they are there to implement development projects, then they should leave this task to the local government. The people don’t want them in the community,” Padilla echoed a Lumad leader’s statement.

For the past two weeks, the schooling of some 500 students was affected by the military operations. The evacuated areas are the site for six schools of the Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur or TRIFPSS which provides the equivalent of elementary education in formal schools. Another NGO, the ALCADEV provides the equivalent of formal high school education for 126 youths.

In 2005 and 2007, the same communities departed en masse to escape military atrocities. During such time, one Lumad, Jesse Bacasmas was shot dead as he was preparing to board the evacuation truck, and several others were tortured. Children were forced as guides in military operations, and one was even threatened and made to dig his grave. Four others were abducted and remain missing.

“These experiences by the Lumad peoples have made them fear even just an impending military presence, even the mere sight of soldiers. And as the experience of other communities all over the country, military presence in the villages sets the stage for human rights violations. This is the reason for our demand for military pull out from the communities,” Padilla said. ###

Press statement
August 3, 2009
Reference: Girlie T. Padilla
09088941870

 

           

 

August 14, 2009

Lumad bakwets survive on lugaw amidst Arroyo’s extravagant dinner

While President Arroyo dined for $20,000 in New York, Manobo children only have lugaw, bread and food rations at the evacuation center at the Diocese Pastoral Center in Tandag, Surigao del Sur.

Some 1,700 Manobo lumads from Diatagon, Surigao del Sur were displaced last July 18 for fear when the Armed Forces’ 58th Infantry Battalion entered their villages a week earlier and forcibly recruited the lumads including schoolchildren into the lumad paramilitary Task Force Gantangan – Bagani Force.

Two dialogues facilitated by the local government between the lumads and the military have faltered when the military led by the 401st Infantry Brigade refused to accede to the lumads’ demand to pullout the troops and stop the recruitment, insisting that they push through their “peace and development” activities.

War and survival is taking its toll not only on the Manobos but on the people of Tandag. Concerned sectors have to supply 18 sacks of rice everday to feed the evacuees.

Ironically, the Manobos spent the United Nations International Day of World Indigenous Peoples last August 9 in the evacuation.

The lumads are calling the national government to stop the military operations in lumad communities and forced recruitment of the lumads.

Mapasu – Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod ( Protracted Struggle for the

Generation)
Kalumaran – Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Alliance of Indigenous Peoples

in Mindanao)

           
     
KODAO coverage of the National Solidarity Mission for Surigao del Sur Evacuees
   
    Anakpawis partylist Rep. Joel Maglunsod and Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan with the National Solidary Mission    

 

PRESS RELEASE
August 23, 2009
 

Militant farmer’s group lashed at government agencies for Malalag tragedy

Condemning the death of two farmers who were part of those who occupied the LADECO banana plantation in Malalag Davao Del Sur, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas – Southern Mindanao Region (KMP-SMR) lashed at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

“The killing of two fellow farmers in Malalag is a tragic bloody end wrought by the conflicting laws implemented by the DAR and the NCIP, which was made worst by the trigger–happy move of the company guards,” decried Pedro Arndao, chairperson of KMP-SMR.

Arnado stressed the long unresolved overlapping of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) and the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) has been the root cause of numerous disputes among lumads and farmers.

“Not only have the IPRA and the CARP failed to answer the clamor of lumads and farmers for land. These laws which have paid mere lip service to the call for land rights have for the nth time led farmers and lumads in a cockfight, mocking the dignity of these poorest of the poor sectors in the country,” Arnado stated.

Arnado pointed out that the farmers' problem in Malalag highlighted the rottenness of the land reform program.

“The Malalag farmers belong to thousands of so-called CARP beneficiaries who do not benefit from CARP at all, and are instead languishing in landlessness and poverty.. They

have long been awarded those lands and yet for decades, they have been deprived of the right to till those lands. This is because the CARP and the DAR are both toothless against private mono-crop plantations that continue to occupy vast hectares of arable lands in the country,” Arnado said.

In light of the incident, KMP - SMR calls on the House of Representatives which just recently passed the CARP Extension, to go beyond the CARP and pass instead a genuine land reform program embodied in the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).

KMP-SMR also enjoins farmers and lumads to unite and strengthen their ranks against "institutionalized land grabbing" and capitalist land monopoly..

For Reference:
Pedro Arnado
CHAIRPERSON, KMP-SMR

 

     
           
     
     
     
           

 

KALUMARAN and Higala sa Bakwet

Joint Press Release
August 17, 2009

Presence of soldiers press Manobos to call-off return to communities

The anticipated return of the Manobo evacuees to Lianga today Monday was called-off by the Lumad leaders when the 58th Infantry Battalion failed to pullout of their communities.

Some 1,700 Manobo evacuees who have already packed their belongings in anticipation of their return, vent their ire on the army for reneging on their commitment that they will temporarily leave their communities. The agreement was said to be arranged by Johnny Pimentel, provincial administrator of Surigao del Sur to allow the return of the evacuees.

A survey team composed of the lumads, churchpeople and representatives of the provincial government reportedly sighted 58th IB commanding officer Lt. Col. Pedralvez in the checkpoint, as the team was to proceed to the areas. At Purok 5, San Isidro, Lianga the team was able to interview the leader of a platoon of soldiers still staying at the community. More soldiers are reportedly be staying in the neighboring community of Huwangan.

Jalandoni Campos, chair of the local group MAPASU (Malahutayong Panaghiusa Alang sa Sumusunod), said that the Manobos would not risk to return to their homes as long as the soldiers remain and will forced them to join the paramilitary group.

"We would like to return homes only if we know the soldiers will not be around to force what they want." says Campos. "We would like to continue our farming, for our children to go back to the lumad school. But with the military coming and recruiting even the children to the Task Force Gantangan - Bagani Force, we can not have peace."

Campos appealed to the local government to help intercede and ask the soldiers to pull out of their communities.

He also appealed to the church and other supporters for understanding of the situation.

"We are grateful to the support from the (Tandag) Diocese, the sisters and other concerned sectors. I am sad that we are burdening them since we cannot go home yet. I ask that you may help us by bringing our plea to have the military leave our place so we can go back at once."

The Manobos evacuated last July 18 when the 58th IB started recruitment campaign and surveying the residents and schoolchildren for supposed "peace and development".

for reference :
Dulphing Ogan

----------------------------------------------------------


CHR’s de Lima to Personally Lead Probe of Military Abuses Vs Lumads in Surigao
August 28, 2009

www.bulatlat.com

MANILA — Amid reports of human-rights violations in Lumad communities in Mindanao, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Leila De Lima will personally lead a fact-finding mission this weekend in Surigao del Sur.

The mission is in response to a resolution approved by the provincial government of Surigao del Sur asking the CHR to look into the alleged abuses by the military. Leaders and representatives of the affected indigenous peoples communities and human-rights groups also sought the CHR’s help.

According to Lumad and human-rights groups, more than 1,700 people, mostly indigenous peoples from the Manobo tribe in Surigao del Sur, have been displaced by massive military operations conducted by the 58th and 401st Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army.

The CHR’s office in the Caraga region reported that many of the evacuees are crammed into small spaces at the Diocesan Pastoral Center of Tandag, also in Surigao del Sur. In the municipality of Lianga, the CHR received reports that members of the military forced civilians to join paramilitary units, which were engaged in combat with communist rebels in the area. In some cases, the Lumads are being labeled as New People’s Army (NPA) rebels themselves, or supporters and sympathizers. A food blockade has also been imposed by the military.

De Lima said the allegations are “serious and require further investigation” because they run contrary to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (UNGPID), and violate human rights as well as international humanitarian law. The UNGPID specifically enjoins competent authorities to provide internal refugees with, and ensure safe access to, basic necessities. It vests on national authorities the primary duty and responsibility to provide humanitarian assistance.

In a letter dated Aug. 19, the CHR urged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to take action in the alleviation of the humanitarian situation faced by these internally displaced persons. It also sought the enactment of government measures aimed at making the human rights of the evacuees a reality on the ground.

“The alarming ordeal of the Manobo evacuees in Surigao emphasizes the need to limit the adverse effect of the armed conflict in Mindanao on civilians, particularly indigenous peoples,” de Lima said. “While there is a need to put an end to insurgency, this must not be done at the expense of those who are merely caught in between.”

The CHR said its mission to Surigao del Sur is in line with its constitutional mandate to protect and promote human rights, as well as with its duty to monitor government’s compliance with its obligations under international human rights law and humanitarian law.

Recently, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed concern about the effects of the clashes between the Philippine military and the New People’s Army on indigenous people and evacuees, among other issues. In its report to the committee, the CHR, through Commissioner Cecilia Rachel V. Quisumbing, revealed that many of those who have been displaced by the fighting come from indigenous tribes.

Meanwhile, a national support network for the evacuees of Surigao del Sur dubbed as Task Force Surigao will hold a parallel solidarity mission to Tandag, Carrascal and Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

Led by Gabriela Women’s Party List Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez and Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP or Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines) spokesman Nelson Mallari, the mission will first visit the Manobo evacuees at the Diocese Pastoral Center on August 29.

They will also hold dialogues with the government of Surigao del Sur, military officials and Catholic Bishop Nereo Odchimar. Medical professionals and volunteers will provide medical services to the evacuees.

A part of the team will visit evacuees from Barangay Pantukan, Carrascal who are now at the Adlay gym. In the next two days after that, the team will accompany the Manobo residents back to their community to harvest their crops as well as to retrieve some more of their personal belongings.

The mission aims to help put pressure on the national government to pull out the troops from the area. (Bulatlat.com)

 

 

Manila talking peace while terrorizing people

Gerry Albert Corpuz
August 20, 2009
United Press International, Asia
<http://www.upiasia.com/Politics/2009/08/17/manila_talking_peace_while_terrorizing_people/8588/>

Manila, Philippines — Peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front, the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, will resume in Norway in the last week of August.

The development is welcomed by peace advocates all over the country. However, many are worried because while the Manila government is talking peace, its armed forces are on a rampage displacing thousands of civilians in the countryside.

A report by the National Solidarity Mission on displaced people in Surigao del Sur on the island of Mindanao revealed that since June 18 some 303 families, including 1,795 individuals, fled their mountain communities after troops were deployed to their region.

According to the human rights group Karapatan Caraga, the deployment of thousands of troops was aimed at promoting peace and development in the communist-influenced areas and implement community projects, especially literacy projects in 15 indigenous farming communities.

But that is ironic, says the rights group, as the peasant communities already have schools established with the help of the Tribal Filipino Program and the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development. However, the Manila government regards the two non-government organizations as fronts of communist guerillas and the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Reports reaching regional and provincial media outlets said the military had set up checkpoints to limit the amount of food that could be brought into the communities. Worse, schools for tribal children remained under siege by the military, prompting children to quit school for fear of being harassed.

The mission also said government troops in full battle gear were encamped in the homes of tribal people and had set up their detachments within firing range of civilian communities. Local government agencies and authorities refused to address this issue for fear of military reprisals.

Karapatan Caraga said negotiations for the immediate return of the evacuees to their homes were facilitated by Surigao del Sur Governor Vicente Pimentel and witnessed by the incoming president of the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and Tandag Diocese Bishop Nereo Odchimar. But these negotiations offered little hope as the military refused to pull out of the tribal peasant communities.

This is not the first time for battalions of troops to be deployed in these tribal farmer communities since President Gloria Arroyo assumed the presidency in 2001. The military launched occupation campaigns in 2005 and 2007. These operations resulted in the death of an indigenous farmer and the enforced disappearance of four other tribal farmers.

During the same years, there were reports of physical and psychological torture of members of 15 peasant communities. There were other cases of human rights violations as well, including the destruction and disruption of farmers’ livelihoods and the cessation of classes because schools were being used as military barracks, creating fear and insecurity among local children.

The Manila government clearly violated many international protocols as enshrined in the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights and other documents that serve as guides in the conduct of civil war.

Arroyo and the Philippines armed forces also summarily violated their agreement with the NDFP, which under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law prohibits the military from terrorizing civilians in any military operation like the one they are waging against the New People’s Army, the political armed group of the CPP. The Philippine army suspects the civilians of supporting the rebel army fighting for national liberation.

Based on a report compiled by Karapatan, from 2001 to 2008 the Manila government forcibly evacuated and displaced some 868,096 Filipinos and committed human rights abuses in the form of indiscriminate firing on some 534,700 individuals during the same period.

From 2001 to December 2008, the government imposed food blockades that affected an estimated 79,840 people. Counter-insurgency programs against the communist guerillas and the use of schools, medical, religious and other public places by the military, as reported by human rights organizations, affected some 47,700 people, mostly farmers and their children.

Also during the same period, advocates of children’s rights in rural communities revealed that the Manila government violated the rights of 7,749 children in the course of military operations. The data on human rights abuses exclude hundreds of cases of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances.

The NDFP leadership in Mindanao has urged the Manila government and the Philippine military to stop terrorizing tribal communities. It said peoples’ communities should be spared from state terror and military action in accordance U.N. instruments on human rights and on the conduct of war against armed national liberation movements like the NPA.

Associations and nongovernment organizations working for the rights and welfare of tribal communities should bring this issue before members of the peace panel in Oslo, Norway, where the talks will be held. Such groups should voice their complaints against the Philippine government to the peace panel and provide a copy to the Norwegian government, which is the facilitator of the peace talks.

Advocates of human rights should denounce the Manila government and the Philippine military for violating the rights of the people in the name of their counter-insurgency program and national security.

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(Gerry Albert Corpuz is a correspondent of Bulatlat.com, an alternative Philippine online news site. He is also head of the information department of Pamalakaya, a national federation of small fisherfolk organizations in the Philippines. His website is www.pampil.wordpress.com,

           
           
     
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