ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT FOR
JUSTICE & PEACE (EMJP)
Address 2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Streets, Central
District, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
August 30, 2009
Reference: Girlie Padilla (09088941870)
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
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
The military troops’ withdrawal was timed just as Commission on Human
Rights Chair Leila de Lima visited the Tandag evacuaees on Friday, Aug.
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
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
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 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
August 3, 2009
Reference: Girlie T. Padilla
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
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
"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 :
CHR’s de Lima to Personally Lead Probe of Military Abuses Vs Lumads in
August 28, 2009
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
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
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
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)
talking peace while terrorizing people
Gerry Albert Corpuz
August 20, 2009
United Press International, Asia
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
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
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
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
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
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.
(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,