Reclaiming our Lives, Reclaiming our Ancestral Land

Task Force Surigao reports on the plight of the indigenous peoples

in the militarized communities of Surigao del Sur

 

 

Posted: September 8, 2009

 

 

   

Quick Facts

 

■       2,000 indigenous peoples f.rom 15 lumad communities of Surigao del Sur in June 2009 due to heavy military operations in the area.

■     Since June 10, about 300 members of the 58"1 Infantry Battalion and 361h Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) have been occupying civilian homes and nearby forested areas;

■     The continued military operations in the province are said to be because of the province's rich land, where valuable minerals such as coal and gold can be found.


■     During the operations, many human rights enshrined in the Philippine Constitution, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of the Indigenous Peoples have been violated

 

■     The 581h IBPA put up strict checkpoint along mountain roads Visitors, especially foreigners, were barred from entering the lumad communities in Barangay Diatagon.

■     Since the first quarter of this year, the military has also been conducting a food blockade, thereby causing food shortage and possible starvation among the 126 stay-in students, as well as the teachers and staff, of ALCADEV;

■     During a solidarity mission attended by Gabriela Women's Party sponsored by the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayang Pilipino (KAMP) and Karapatan-CARAGA, ALCADEV stUdents, teachers and staff, and members of lumad communities denied allegations that the school is a communist front and an NPA training ground;
 

   
/p

/p
Photos courtesy of PCPR/Tolyts
           
At tje evacuation center in Tandag, Surigao del Sur
           
           

 

Executive Summary

National Solidarity Mission

Reclaiming our Lives, Reclaiming our Ancestral Land

28 August – 1 September 2009

Surigao del Sur

  

This report is the result of the National Solidarity Visit to the Surigao del Sur Lumad Evacuees that was spearheaded by Task Force Surigao headed by its spokesperson Representative Luzviminda Ilagan of the Gabriela Partylist.  179 participants from 52 National, Regional and Caraga organizations attended the entire mission.

 

This NSM report aims to examine the cause of the massive evacuation of the lumad communities in Lianga, San Agustin, Tago and Carrascal in Surigao del Sur that occurred from June to August 2009, to assess the situation of the evacuees at the time of the mission and to present recommendations to mitigate the effects and prevent the same from occurring in the future.  

 

The Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) and Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) schools play a pivotal role in the development of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) communities, a concrete manifestation of the strong unity of the Manobo in Lianga and other nearby lumad communities.  Moreover, these schools inspire the Manobo people to exercise and advance their right to self-determination in defense of their ancestral domain.  The TRIFPSS or ALCADEV teachers, living within the community, are higly esteemed as educators, advisers and critics in the community.  They provided the stabilizing presence that allowed the lumad people to thrive, secure in the knowledge that dependable and sincere people are working with them to realize the tribal communities’ full potential. The education of their children and their regular exercises in democratic decision-making have created a strong sense of community.

 

For the bankrupt and desperate Arroyo Regime, these communities represented the last bastion that must be destroyed to gain access and exploit the abundant forest and mineral resources in Lianga to fill its depleted coffers.  The Department of Energy (DOE) has again put the entire ancestral domain of these Andap Valley communities as among the listed DOE-recommended areas for the mining of coal in their 2009 Philippine Energy Contracting Round that closed last June 2009.

 

Military presence in the lumad communities began to build up also in June 2009.  In the guise of bringing development through the implementation of education, electrification, road-building and small socio-economic projects, the military aggressively campaigned for the conscription of community members into the Task Force Gantangan – Bagani Forces or else surrender as NPA.  They talked to children of stealing the firearms of the NPA, distributing flyers with the pricelist for surrendered arms.   They sought to supplant the schools that the communities founded with their own schools, purportedly to “legalize” them, openly accusing TRIFPSS and ALCADEV of being illegal and some staff of being NPA.

 

Because the military was staying within the communities with their high-power firearms always at the ready and conducting armed patrols in the communities’ perimeter, there were reported incidents of engagements, allegedly with the NPA, around the communities.

 

These conditions spurred the massive evacuations from June to August 2009.  The evacuees suffered inhuman conditions at evacuation centers, receiving inadequate social services from the government.  They lived mainly from the community leaders’ efforts to approach local, national and international organizations to appeal for assistance.  It was again through their own efforts that food, medical services and other support reached them during their evacuation.

 

The Manobo community leadership, through MAPASU, engaged government, non-government, church and sectoral organizations at the local, national and international level, to lobby for their immediate return to their communities.  It was only when the issue came to the attention of national leaders that the military announced their pullout from the communities with the caveat that they will still return to implement the projects that they had to put on hold while the people were in evacuation.

 

The NSM delegation accompanied the communities during the return to their homes on August 30, after more than 6 weeks in evacuation.  There were documented cases of defacement of property with anti-communist slogans, malicious destruction and loss of property.  Some farms were destroyed because of the prolonged period when the crops were not tended. 

 

In Pantukan, Carrascal, the military was still in the community, living less than 75 meters from the back of the Roman Catholic Chapel when the NSM delegation visited.  The military’s clotheslines where still full and in plain view when the mission arrived.  They were also harassed by two motorcycle-riding men in civilian clothes who were believed to be intelligence agents who took pictures of the delegation while interviewing residents. 

 

Under the OPLAN Bantay Laya 2, the military operates in three modes – combat, intelligence and civil-military.  Aside from allowing the Philippine Government to declare a “strategic victory”  against the CPP-NPA-NDFP before its deadline in 2010, these modes that are in full operation in Surigao del Sur, more importantly, will pave the way for the uninterrupted operation of mining companies in the area.  The projects that were supposedly for the development of these communities are actually nothing more than consolation prizes and bribes for the wholesale plunder of the mineral and other forest resources in their ancestral domain. The TRIFPSS and ALCADEV schools are vilified and TFG-BF are recruited to undermine the unity and strong sense of community identity that have become inherent in the Manobo communities in the MAPASU areas.

 

Despite the fact that the Manobo communities have already returned to their homes, with the media pronouncements of the AFP regarding the 13 Manobo residents in the MAPASU area who are already charged with warrants of arrest ready to be served, their persistence in implementing their “development projects” and continued vilification of ALCADEV, its learners and staff, these communities continue to be under threat.

 

We therefore recommend:

 

1.      For the Philippine Government to withdraw OPLAN Bantay Laya 2 and pull out military troops from civilian communities in Surigao del Sur;

 

2.      For the AFP and the Philippine Government to idemnify members of the community who incurred damages/losses to property and livelihood due to the prolonged military occupation of their communities and homes;

 

3.      For the AFP to stop the recruitment to the illegal Task Force Gantangan-Bagani Forces and to consider the interests of these lumad communities and allow the civilian government line agencies to handle the development projects that they plan to implement with community consultations to ensure their full, prior and informed consent;

 

4.      For House of Representatives’ Committees on Human Rights, Education and Indigenous Peoples’ Concern to immediately tackle the resolutions that were submitted by the office of Rep. Luz Ilagan regarding issues relating to the massive evacuations in Surigao del Sur and conduct onsite investigations to address them;

 

5.      For Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Atty. Leila de Lima to investigate so that responsible persons may be held accountable for the conditions in Surigao del Sur that spurred the massive evacuations, the inhuman conditions due to the lack of social services that the evacuees suffered at the evacuation centers and the threats that still confront these communities even after they have returned home;

 

6.      For National Commission on Indigenous Peoples Commissioner Eugenio A. Insigne to conduct an on-site investigation to help resolve contentious issues regarding the recognition of the ancestral domain and right to self-determination and to act decisively to protect the legitimate interests of the Manobo communities affected by this massive evacuation;

 

7.      For President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to be reminded that the Philippine Government is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     

 

The plight of the lumads

 

■      Almost 2,000 indigenous peoples f.rom 15 lumad communities of Lianga, San Agustin and Tago, Surigao del Sur have fled their homes and are temporarily staying at evacuation centers due to heavy military operations in the area which started on June 10, 2009.

■     Since June 10, about 300 members of the 58"1 Infantry Battalion and 361h Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) under the 401 51 Infantry Brigade, accompanied by lumad paramilitary elements belonging to Task Force Gantangan-Bagani Forces (TFG-BF), have been occupying civilian homes and nearby forested areas;

■     The soldiers patrolled around the communities day and night and intermittent gunfire was heard in the areas where they patrolled. Residents were forced to limit their mobility and work time in their farms for fear of encountering the soldiers. This resulted to the disruption of the lives of the lumads families suffered from hunger and children failed to attend school;

■     On June 18, because of  the soldiers' refusal for them to evacuate, around 30 families from the Purok Center of Upper Oregon fled their homes. They were joined by 10 families from Kamangahan and 34 families from Purok 5. Around 346 individuals arrived at the Lianga Municipal Gym after trekking 16 kilom~ters on foot from their communities They were soon followed by hundreds of families frbm other communities who were also displaced by the heavy military operations. They are currently staying at the Diocesan Pastoral Center;

■     Ten families who remained in Upper Oregon confirmed reports of continuous military operations in their communities; This was just the latest of the series of military operations being conducted by the 581/1 and 361h IBPA and other units under the 4'01 51 Infantry Brigade in lumad communities in Surigao del Sur since May 2005;

e
■     The latest spate of military operatior'1S started in January this year Residents of Upper Oregon already evacuated last February 9-16, 2009, because of combat operations against the New People's Army (NPA) in their communities Around 150 soldiers deployed in their communities stayed at civilian houses;

■     The continued military operations in the province are said to be because of the province's rich land, where valuable minerals such as coal and gold can be found. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) has been studying the area since the 1970s. The Andap Valley Complex, which spans the municipalities of Barobo, Lianga, San Agustin, San Miguel, Marihatag, Cagwait and Tago, is a prime area for extraction of coal and other minerals;

■     During the operations, many human rights enshrined in the Philippine Constitution, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of the Indigenous Peoples have been violated Among the complaints were food blockade, threat and intimidation, forced recruitment, use of civilians as shields, illegal checkpoints, use of civilian facilities such as houses and schools as military barracks;
 

 

 

■     The 581h IBPA put up strict checkpoint along mountain roads Visitors, especially foreigners, were barred from entering the lumad communities in Barangay Diatagon. On at least four occasions, from December 2008 to july 2009, visitors of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) -an alternative learning system for the indigenous peoples of the poverW-stricken mountain communities of CARAGA region -in Han-ayan, Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, were blocked from entering the communities and were subjected to questioning The latest of these incidents happened on July 14, 2009, when seven Belgiah nationals were stopped at the checkpoint
on their way to ALCADEV and refused entry to Han-ayan;

■     Since the first quarter of this year, the military has also been conducting a food blockade, thereby causing food shortage and possible starvation among the 126 stay-in students, as well as the teachers and staff, of ALCADEV;
 

■     This food blockade started after the ALCADEV administration refused to submit the list of names and addresses of its students, teachers and staff demanded by the military in a letter dated February 25, 2009. Prior to this, the military already required a permit from the municipal hall for any volume of food to be transported;

■     The teachers and staff of ALCADEV also suffered from humiliation in the hands of the military every time they passed the checkpoint They were shouted at, usually With obscenities, and called names;

■     ALCADEV, together with indigenous people's organization Malahutayong Paklgblsog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) and support institution Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS), was accused of being a communist front and a training ground for the New People's Army (NPA) by the military


■     During a solidarity mission attended by Gabriela Women's Party sponsored by the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayang Pilipino (KAMP) and Karapatan-CARAGA, ALCADEV stUdents, teachers and staff, and members of lumad communities denied allegations that the school is a communist front and an NPA training ground;

■     Established on July 19, 2004, ALCADEV aims to provide secondary education relevant to the needs and culture of the lumads and instrumental to the growth and development of their communities. It is recognized by Department of Education's Bureau of Alternative Learning System-CARAGA and had t:1leen an entry to the bureau's Annual Literacy Award in 2005. It also closely coordinates with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), local government units, indigenous peoples organizations and non-government organizations in order to create a curriculum best suited for the interests of the lumad students. Prior to its establishment, very few lumads were able to
acquire basic education owing to the fact that the nearest formal educational institutions are located 20 kilometers from the villages;

 

From: House Resolution No. 1 341 introduced by Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela Partylist
 

 

     
     
           
           

 

PRESS STATEMENT - September 3, 2009
Reference: Marie Hilao- Enriquez, Chairperson (Mobile No. 09175616800)
DJ Acierto, Public Information Officer (Mobile No. 09189790580)

STOP THE MILITARIZATION OF LUMAD COMMUNITIES!
STOP OPLAN BANTAY LAYA!

The human rights alliance Karapatan, STRONGLY DENOUNCES the mad implementation of the government’s plan to “end the insurgency by 2010.” This vicious strategy is wreaking havoc in peaceful communities of indigenous peoples who have, on their own efforts, built community projects and managed their community affairs to uplift their living conditions and live decent lives as human beings. Now the government strategy threatens the lives of our lumad communities.

KARAPATAN, together with several progressive and civic and civil society organizations, has formed the Task Force Surigao which just held a national solidarity mission to accompany the 1, 795 Manobo evacuees in returning to their 15 upland communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on August 30, 2009 after almost three months of hard and forced evacuation in the Lianga Gymnasium and the Tandag Diocesan Pastoral Center grounds.

The evacuation was triggered by the 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army’s military operations conducted by the 36th and 58th Infantry Battalions under the unit in the 15 communities of Lianga since June 2009. The operations according to the military, targeted the “pinning down” of the people’s organizations, the educational institutions and leaders of these areas as “communist fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines. ALCADEV and the TRIFPPS, two alternative learning systems put up by the communities with the help of the church and non-government organizations, have been labelled as learning centers of the NPA’s by the military and according to them, must be accredited by the Department of Education, a move already began by these institutions since 2007.. The military demanded the registry of students and staff of these learning schools, sowing fear among the teachers and students alike.

The Manobos of the municipalities of Lianga, San Agustin and Tago should be commended for putting up agricultural and educational services on their own at the time when the government failed to provide them the necessary services to their community. The Arroyo government should be supporting these initiatives by the lumads instead of vilifying the hard work of the residents as activities which support or train members of the New People's Army.

In the guise of "community development programs," the military has literally occupied the communities, conducted surveillance of residents and students in the schools and distributed OPAPP flyers and leaflets urging the people to “surrender themselves” and join the Task Force Gantangan-Bagani Force – a paramilitary organization being set up by the military among the lumad communities.

We urge the government and military troops to allow the lumads to live in peace without intimidation and harassment and without being coerced to join any paramilitary groups, and to live peacefully.

If the government is genuinely sincere to comply with UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston's recommendations, it should end the human rights violations in the provinces, and stop the labeling of the peace-loving lumads as supporters or members of the NPA.

We call on the government to pull out the AFP troops from communities in the provinces, and to not allow military operations to be conducted in civilian communities. We call on the government to comply with the international laws on human rights and international humanitarian laws, of which the Philippines is a signatory.

We also enjoin the government agencies concerned, local government units and civil society groups to monitor the situation in the lumad communities in Surigao del Sur, as well as other communities being victimized by the AFP troops and the military's counter-insurgency operations. ##
 

     
     
     
     
     
           

 

Threat Remains as Displaced Lumads Return to Defaced Homes, Damaged Crops
Published on September 6, 2009
www.bulatlat.com


The Manobos of Surigao del Sur may be back home for now, but they still face the threats of militarization – even as they also have to contend with the burden of rebuilding their ravaged homes, schools, and livelihoods.

By ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — After spending almost three months in an evacuation center, Ernesto Hernandez returned to his home in Lagdek, San Isidro, Lianga in Surigao del Sur to find the words “C Coy the best” written on the wall of his house. Mobile phone numbers of people he had never heard of were written on other parts of the wall. At the veranda, there were several sandbags.

Lourdes Takmoy, also of Lagdek, returned to her house — also after living in an evacuation center for nearly three months — to find human feces in her kitchen.

On the wall of Bae Narding Merza’s house, located in another community also in Surigao del Sur, were written the following words: “Members of this household are active in the NPA (New People’s Army).”

In Simuwao, the school of the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (Trifpss) had the words “teachers of the NPA, communists” written on one of the blackboards.

Lumad children on the night before their trip back home. View the slideshow (Photo by Kenneth Roland A. Guda / pinoyweekly.org)

In other communities the Lumads found that their rice pots, pails, plates, and utensils were missing. Many of the doors of their homes had been knocked down. Tilapia fingerlings were missing, possibly stolen, from at least one fishpond. Vegetables that were to be harvested soon had also been stolen, while other crops were rotting.

Such scenes, as described in a report by the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP), were what nearly 2,000 Lumads witnessed when they returned to their communities on Aug. 30 after spending three months in refugee centers.

These members of the Manobo tribe had fled from their communities in the towns of Lianga, San Agustin, Tago, and Carrascal in Surigao del Sur to escape militarization.

The military began encroaching on their areas last June, promising to bring “development” projects like education, electrification, road construction, and small socio-economic projects.

But apart from implementing these “development” projects, the soldiers – who belong to the Philippine Army’s 58th Infantry Brigade, led by Col. Benjamin Pedralvez – also conducted military operations, walking around with their high-powered firearms not only in the villages but also on school grounds.

According to Isaias Morales of Karapatan-Caraga, the Manobos suffered from frequent bombings of their communities. “There are many trees in their areas and it is perhaps only these that protected them from death,” Morales said in an interview with Bulatlat.

Not only that: the military also conscripted the members of these Manobo communities into the military’s Task Force Gantangan, and the only other option for those who would refuse was to “surrender” as “NPA guerrillas”. “This sows disunity among the Lumads,” said Nelson Mallari, spokesman of the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Kamp or National Federation of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines) and secretary-general of the Katribu Partylist.

Children were encouraged to steal and surrender the firearms of the “NPA” in exchange for cash.

The schools of Trifpss and the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), government-awarded institutions that provided educational opportunities typically unavailable to indigenous cultural communities, were vilified as “NPA schools” and disrupted in their operations. The communities maintained organic farms, and the forced evacuations caused many of their crops to rot. “These were proof of the Lumads’ resolve to achieve genuine progress through their own self-determination,” Mallari said.

The places used as evacuation centers – the Lianga Gymnasium and the Tandag Diocesan Pastoral Center – were crowded and the evacuees suffered from the lack of support from government agencies. Only through the efforts of their leaders were the members of these communities able to survive the harrowing conditions in the evacuation centers for almost three months.

Their community leaders brought their plight to the attention of government officials, nongovernment organizations, and people’s organizations at the local, national, and international levels. They would not go back to their communities, they said, unless the military pulled out.

Only after their plight caught the attention of the groups in Manila, as well as the Commission on Human Rights and the national media, did the military leave the area, but not after declaring that they would be back purportedly to continue implementing their “development” projects. In Carrascal, the soldiers did not even leave.

On Aug. 30, accompanied by 179 delegates to a National Solidarity Mission organized by Task Force Surigao, most of the 1,795 evacuees returned to their homes. But the presence of the military still looms over their communities.

Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan branded the military’s pullout from the Surigao del Sur communities as a “relative pull-out.”

The Manobos of Lianga, San Agustin, and Tago may be back home for now, but they still face the threats of militarization – even as they also have to contend with the burden of rebuilding their ravaged homes, schools, and livelihoods. (Bulatlat.com)

 

View slide show

 

 

     
     
     
     
           
     
     
           
=          
==          
           
Leaving the evacuation center, retruning to their homes
           
     
     
     

 

Statement of Support to the Lumads' Struggle Against Large scale Mining and Militarization

Witnessing the deploring conditions under a temporary shelter at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Tandag, Surigao del Sur; a grim outlook has left a challenge on church people to show a firm stand in confronting the mining and human rights issues in the country and to call for a genuine peace that is based on justice.

Within four days of the National Solidarity Mission which was held in August 28 to September 1, 2009; mission volunteers comprising of church workers have seen the dire situation of more than 1,700 Lumad refugees, mostly children, who were forced to evacuate from their communities in Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur since July 17, 2009 when elements of the 58th Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Benjamin Pedralvez occupied their lands.

Though facilities in the evacuation center such as tents, beddings and others are inadequate to their number; the refugees chose to temporarily leave their homes and livelihood out of fear for their lives. This reveals issues of mining and logging schemes that utilize the military to protect sinister interests of a few against the rights of the Lumad people to peacefully till their ancestral lands.

But behind massive human rights violations and fear; there is resistance, hope and determination to return to their lands through a collective action. Mission volunteers came along with them to Diatagon and integrated in their agricultural and social activities. It can be observed that the residents of Diatogon have developed an advanced way of farming, water purification and a system of education through their organized efforts. The sense of “common good” among the Lumads is remarkable. Their economic and cultural system empowered them and enhanced their living in their communities – a kind of living that is far different from their helpless situation in the evacuation center.

Upon reaching their homeland, the military have already left but traces of plunder are evident -- sanctity of homes looted, farm fields and properties destroyed and some animals stolen. This was a shameful act of those who are expected to protect lives and properties of the people. But in spite of these, the residents were able to reclaim their lands and shall continuously uphold their struggle against militarization and displacement.

As church people, we are called to be in solidarity with God’s people especially the oppressed and the poor. There is also a challenge for the church hierarchy to collectively show their prophetic and stewardship role as people’s shepherd. Shall we allow militarization, mining and logging concessionaires and other evil attempts destroy the environment and this tradition’s richness? Shall we allow rights to be incessantly trampled?

The Promotion of Church People’s Response, along with other groups and individuals, supports the loud uproar for respect on human rights and peace. We also hold the indigenous people’s right to self determination and vows to fight side-by-side with them against militarization, large scale mining and destruction of our natural resources.

Reference: Mr. Nardy Sabino,

Secretary General, PCPR
 

HOUSE RESOLUTION NO. 1_3 '-1 Intro<!Juced by Gabriela Women's Party-list Representative Luzviminda C. IIagan DIRECTING THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL CULTURAL COMMUNITIES TO CONDUCT AN INVESTIGATION ON THE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS COMMITTED BY THE ELEMENTS OF THE 58TH AND 36lh INFANTRY BATTALION OF THE PHIUPPINE ARMY AGAINST THE LUMADS IN SURIGAO DEL SUR RESULTING IN THE MASSIVE EVACUATION OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES, AND TO CALL FOR THE IMMEDIATE PULL-OUT OF TROOPS IN THE AREA
 


 

     
     
           
     
     
     

 

Press Statement Reference: Girlie T. Padilla
September 3, 2009 Secretary General 09088941870

58th IBPA soldiers left communities looted and in disarray
EMJP calls for justice and indemnification of Manobo evacuees

The Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP) today slams the destruction of the Manobo homes, schools and farms in the Lumad communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur by soldiers of the 58th Infantry Brigade who stayed in the area for two-and-a-half months.

The damages were discovered after the Lumad evacuees returned after having left their communities in June and July. The EMJP called for for the indemnification and justice for the Manobo residents and for punitive measures against the 58th IB soldiers led by Lt. Col. Benjamin Pedralvez.

“The soldiers of the 58th IBPA repeated what they did in 2007, when they robbed and ravaged the Lumad’s homes and schools in the 15 communities. The military violated the sanctity of the people’s homes and showed no respect for their properties in their vain attempt to destroy the people’s united stand to protect their ancestral lands, their rights and communities,” Girlie Padilla, EMJP secretary general said.

Padilla issued the statement at the press conference of the Task Force Surigao on the just concluded National Solidarity Mission to Surigao del Sur. The EMJP was part of the 161-person group which accompanied the evacuees in their return home. The evacuees initially stayed at Lianga town gym and later at the Diocese Pastoral Center in Tandag.

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 soldiers who imposed a food blockade, conducted harassment in the tribal schools and forcible recruitment of Lumads to the paramilitary group Task Force Gantangan-Bagani Force. Those who refused were branded as members of the New People’s Army. The military also branded the government-awarded Lumad high school Alternative Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) as an “NPA training school.”

In 2005 and 2007, the Lumad communities had also evacuated to escape further military atrocities amidst heavy troop deployment in the area. In 2007, soldiers put the blame on the NPA for the ransacked villages. “It is clear that only the military stayed in the communities and these could only be their doing,” Padilla said.

Soldiers vandalized homes, such as in the house of Ernesto Hernandez in Lagdek, San Isidro, Lianga. The words “C Coy the Best” were written on a wall inside his house. It was also evidently used as a detachment because sandbags were left on the veranda of the said house while cellphone numbers were written on the walls using charcoal. Human feces were also found on the dirty kitchen of Lourdes Takmoy, also in Lagdek, San Isidro, Lianga.

In other communities, the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) school in Simuwao had the words “mga maestro sa NPA, Komunista” (“Teachers of the NPA, Communists”) written on the blackboard. This was reported by one of the teachers of TRIFPSS who came to check the state of their school. Also seen vandalized on the wall of the house of Bae Narding Merza were the words “Kini nga balay antag aktibo sa NPA” (Members of this house are active with the NPA).

Rice pots, utensils, plates, pails, and other properties were stolen from the houses. Doors were dismantled and destroyed; while at least 18 Tilapia fingerlings were also stolen from a small fish pond in Km. 9; vegetables for harvesting were also stolen. Crops ripe for harvest two months ago had rotted.

Padilla said that under the Arroyo government’s anti-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, military operations have instilled fear in the people and caused the disruption of their economic activities and their children’s education; the destruction of their crops and properties. The government hopes that with this they will quell the rising insurgency at the same time destroy the indigenous people’s will to improve their lives.

“With the OBL2 deadline fast approaching, we fear this will result to more human rights violations.” Padilla said. ###
 

     
     
           
           
     
     

 

PRESS STATEMENT - September 3, 2009
Reference: Marie Hilao- Enriquez, Chairperson (Mobile No. 09175616800)
DJ Acierto, Public Information Officer (Mobile No. 09189790580)

STOP THE MILITARIZATION OF LUMAD COMMUNITIES!
STOP OPLAN BANTAY LAYA!

The human rights alliance Karapatan, STRONGLY DENOUNCES the mad implementation of the government’s plan to “end the insurgency by 2010.” This vicious strategy is wreaking havoc in peaceful communities of indigenous peoples who have, on their own efforts, built community projects and managed their community affairs to uplift their living conditions and live decent lives as human beings. Now the government strategy threatens the lives of our lumad communities.

KARAPATAN, together with several progressive and civic and civil society organizations, has formed the Task Force Surigao which just held a national solidarity mission to accompany the 1, 795 Manobo evacuees in returning to their 15 upland communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on August 30, 2009 after almost three months of hard and forced evacuation in the Lianga Gymnasium and the Tandag Diocesan Pastoral Center grounds.

The evacuation was triggered by the 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army’s military operations conducted by the 36th and 58th Infantry Battalions under the unit in the 15 communities of Lianga since June 2009. The operations according to the military, targeted the “pinning down” of the people’s organizations, the educational institutions and leaders of these areas as “communist fronts” of the Communist Party of the Philippines. ALCADEV and the TRIFPPS, two alternative learning systems put up by the communities with the help of the church and non-government organizations, have been labelled as learning centers of the NPA’s by the military and according to them, must be accredited by the Department of Education, a move already began by these institutions since 2007.. The military demanded the registry of students and staff of these learning schools, sowing fear among the teachers and students alike.

The Manobos of the municipalities of Lianga, San Agustin and Tago should be commended for putting up agricultural and educational services on their own at the time when the government failed to provide them the necessary services to their community. The Arroyo government should be supporting these initiatives by the lumads instead of vilifying the hard work of the residents as activities which support or train members of the New People's Army.

In the guise of "community development programs," the military has literally occupied the communities, conducted surveillance of residents and students in the schools and distributed OPAPP flyers and leaflets urging the people to “surrender themselves” and join the Task Force Gantangan-Bagani Force – a paramilitary organization being set up by the military among the lumad communities.

We urge the government and military troops to allow the lumads to live in peace without intimidation and harassment and without being coerced to join any paramilitary groups, and to live peacefully.

If the government is genuinely sincere to comply with UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston's recommendations, it should end the human rights violations in the provinces, and stop the labeling of the peace-loving lumads as supporters or members of the NPA.

We call on the government to pull out the AFP troops from communities in the provinces, and to not allow military operations to be conducted in civilian communities. We call on the government to comply with the international laws on human rights and international humanitarian laws, of which the Philippines is a signatory.

We also enjoin the government agencies concerned, local government units and civil society groups to monitor the situation in the lumad communities in Surigao del Sur, as well as other communities being victimized by the AFP troops and the military's counter-insurgency operations. ##
 

     
     
           
           
           
           

 

NEWS RELEASE
2 September 2009

For Reference:
REP. LUZ C. ILAGAN 0920-9213221
Abby Valenzuela (Public Information Officer) 0915-7639619

MILITARY STILL CAMP OUT IN CIVILIAN AREAS IN SURIGAO SUR – GABRIELA SOLON

“Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have not completely left the lumad communities in Surigao del Sur” declared Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Luz Ilagan. “This is contradicts earlier statement of the AFP that it already pulled out its forces in the area, as agreed upon by the local government officials and military officers deployed in the besieged communities.

Ilagan, who joined a medical and relief mission to Pantukan, Surigao del Sur on August 30 saw with her own eyes the continued presence of armed men, confirmed by the residents as soldiers, still camped out beside the school building.

“They were arrogant and did not even try to cover up their presence,” Ilagan said. “While the mission was commencing, they tried to blend in with the people and took the pictures and the names of the delegates and the lumads who joined the mission.”

On Sunday, when the mission was sending the lumads to their homes in Lianga, soldiers in full uniform carrying high-power arms, were seen manning a checkpoint a few minutes away from civilian houses and school.

"While the lumads are generally happy to have finally returned to their homes after three months of stay at the evacuation center, it is obvious they still fear for their future. We cannot blame them as militarization has been part of their lives since 2005. They have repeatedly been harassed – one of their tribe members died in 2007 and four are missing until present – and displaced, and unless the military permanently pulls out its troops in Surigao del Sur, there is a chance that it will happen again in the near future,” Ilagan said.
 

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

NEWS RELEASE
3 September 2009

For Reference:
REP. LUZ C. ILAGAN 0920-9213221
Abby Valenzuela (Public Information Officer) 0915-7639619

Abusing power as AFP Commander-in-Chief:
Mrs. Arroyo ordered encroachment on indigenous communities

"Expect the presence of the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines where ever there are big businesses," said Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Luz Ilagan during the Task Force Surigao media forum held at the National Council of Churches of the Philippines on September 3.

“The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines herself, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, ordered her soldiers to do whatever they could to protect multi-national businesses, even to the extent of encroaching on civilian communities and disrupting the peaceful lives of the indigenous peoples.”

This is the case of Surigao del Sur where a national solidarity mission was recently held to provide medical and relief assistance to almost 2,000 lumad bakwits (evacuees) displaced by massive militarization.

Ilagan said it is no wonder that Surigao del Sur is a haven for multi-national mining companies because, just like the rest of Mindanao, the province is rich in mineral resources. Beneath the mountains of Surigao del Sur lie gold, nickel, copper and other valuable minerals.

“Indigenous communities have been fighting these big companies because their intrusive operations have destroyed the natural environment, thus the homes and livelihood of the locals. But every opposition is met by harassment and human rights violations by the military,” Ilagan said.

According to Ilagan, Mrs. Arroyo and the AFP violated many laws. One of them is abusing her power and using the military against the civilians.

“Unless the AFP has suddenly and secretly changed it mandate, its responsibility is to protect the people from external threat. But what is happening now is the military protecting mining companies and harassing the people.”

 

     
     
     
     
           
What they found in their communities and in their homes
     
           

 

KUSOG SA KATAWHANG LUMAD SA MINDANAO (KALUMARAN)
PRESS STATEMENT
September 8, 2009

JUSTICE FOR DATU MAMPAAGI BELAYONG!
STOP THE KILLING OF LUMAD LEADERS!

Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (KALUMARAN), an alliance of more than fifty (50) indigenous peoples community organizations across Mindanao, condemns in the strongest terms the brutal killing of Higaonon leader Datu Mampaagi Belayong of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur.

Datu Mampaagi, 66 years old, was killed in Brgy Kinamaybay, Esperanza town, on September 2, 2009 allegedly by members of indigenous paramilitary groups organized under the Task Force Gantangan, a special unit of the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) focused on indigenous peoples.

His wife Adelfa, who witnessed the killing together with their 10-year-old grandson and a son-in-law, pinpointed Datu Manlapagan Bato of the recently-formed Bagani Force/Alimaong in the area as the perpetrator. Bato, witnesses said, was accompanied by an unidentified man, believed also to be a member of the Bagani Force/Alimaong led by Vic Makaundag, Mama Magulang Bot-anon, and Commander Bawang of Bungkatol Liberation Front (BULIF). The Bagani Force in the locality is under the command of the 402nd Infantry Brigade.

The formation of Bagani Force units throughout the Caraga region and other areas of Mindanao is being implemented by the Eastern Mindanao Command under its Task Force Gantangan as part of the government’s National Internal Security Plan for Indigenous Peoples (NISP-IP).

Bagani Force units serve to protect big business interests by terrorizing local residents and peoples organizations that oppose the encroachment of large-scale mining and agri-business plantations in their ancestral domain areas. The AFP is attempting to establish Bagani Force paramilitary units in every municipality in Agusan provinces, as well as build an all-Lumad battalion of regular soldiers.

Datu Mampaagi was the chairperson of Linundigan, a progressive community organization of the Higaonon in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur and Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte. Linundigan means “The source of all the good traditions, laws, abundance, and customs of the Higaonon Tribe.” Linundigan is affiliated with KALUMBAY, the regional indigenous alliance in Northern Mindanao, and member organization of KALUMARAN.

Mampaagi’s murder is the fifth to have been perpetrated against an indigenous leader belonging to KALUMARAN’s member organizations in the past six months. His death was preceded by those of martyrs Kapis Butod, Ludenio Monzon, Marcial Latiban, and Agustin Cumawas.

The killing is part of the systematic ethnocide--- including physical elimination--- of indigenous peoples in Mindanao in the name of the government’s counter-insurgency program.

The Arroyo regime’s strategy to seize the remaining mineral- and forest-rich ancestral domains of the lumad also employs forced displacement of entire barrios due to military operations, faked “surrenders” and recruitment into paramilitary groups and intelligence networks, exploitation of traditional culture for private interests, and sowing of fear and intrigue to divide communities.

The Task Force Gantangan and its paramilitary Bagani Force, Tribal Force, and other paramilitary units must be disbanded and brought to justice for this killing! The Arroyo government and the AFP must account for Mampaagi’s death!

Justice for Datu Mampaagi! Justice for all Lumad victims of extrajudicial killings!

Justice for all victims of Arroyo’s human rights violations!

Reference: Dulphing Ogan, Secretary General 0909 554 8217

 

     
     
           
     

■     The 581h IBPA put up strict checkpoint along mountain roads Visitors, especially foreigners, were barred from entering the lumad communities in Barangay Diatagon. On at least four occasions, from December 2008 to july 2009, visitors of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) -an alternative learning system for the indigenous peoples of the poverW-stricken mountain communities of CARAGA region -in Han-ayan, Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, were blocked from entering the communities and were subjected to questioning The latest of these incidents happened on July 14, 2009, when seven Belgiah nationals were stopped at the checkpoint on their way to ALCADEV and refused entry to Han-ayan;
 

     


■     Since the first quarter of this year, the military has also been conducting a food blockade, thereby causing food shortage and possible starvation among the 126 stay-in students, as well as the teachers and staff, of ALCADEV;
 

 

 

     
     
     
■     During the operations, many human rights enshrined in the Philippine Constitution, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights of the Indigenous Peoples have been violated Among the complaints were food blockade, threat and intimidation, forced recruitment, use of civilians as shields, illegal checkpoints, use of civilian facilities such as houses and schools as military barracks;
     
     

■     This food blockade started after the ALCADEV administration refused to submit the list of names and addresses of its students, teachers and staff demanded by the military in a letter dated February 25, 2009. Prior to this, the military already required a permit from the municipal hall for any volume of food to be transported;

     
     
           
Trying to settle down and resume normal lives despite the threat of the mmilitary to return to their communities
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
The alternative school called ALCADEV
     

 

■     The teachers and staff of ALCADEV also suffered from humiliation in the hands of the military every time they passed the checkpoint They were shouted at, usually With obscenities, and called names;

■     ALCADEV, together with indigenous people's organization Malahutayong Paklgblsog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) and support institution Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS), was accused of being a communist front and a training ground for the New People's Army (NPA) by the military


■     During a solidarity mission attended by Gabriela Women's Party sponsored by the Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayang Pilipino (KAMP) and Karapatan-CARAGA, ALCADEV stUdents, teachers and staff, and members of lumad communities denied allegations that the school is a communist front and an NPA training ground;

 


■     Established on July 19, 2004, ALCADEV aims to provide secondary education relevant to the needs and culture of the lumads and instrumental to the growth and development of their communities. It is recognized by Department of Education's Bureau of Alternative Learning System-CARAGA and had t:1leen an entry to the bureau's Annual Literacy Award in 2005. It also closely coordinates with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), local government units, indigenous peoples organizations and non-government organizations in order to create a curriculum best suited for the interests of the lumad students. Prior to its establishment, very few lumads were able to acquire basic education owing to the fact that the nearest formal educational institutions are located 20 kilometers from the villages;

 

     
Solidarity Night
     
     
     
     
     
     
 

Photos by Kenneth Guda of Pinoy Weekly can be viewed in these links:

http://pinoyweekly.org/new/photo-essay-pagbabalik-ng-manobo-sa-lianga/

Bulatlat.com, Datelinephilippines, and Bakwit.org.

 

     
**          

 

 
 

Google