Urgent Action: Call for the immediate pull-out of military troops from Mindanao

Source: 
KARAPATAN Human Rights Update
Date of publication: 
26 June, 2015

Urgent Action : Call for the immediate pull-out of military troops from the communities of peasants and indigenous peoples in Mindanao

Dear friends,

Please join us in our call for the immediate pull-out of AFP troops from the communities of peasants and indigenous peoples in Mindanao. There are at least three groups of evacuees from the provinces of Saranggani, Bukidnon and Davao del Norte. The evacuees, numbering to at least a thousand, are mostly indigenous peoples who left their homes starting May up to the present due to heavy military presence and intense combat operations in their respective communities.

Mindanao is no longer home for the Higaonons, for the Blaans, Ata Manobos, and all other indigenous peoples.

Their leaders are either killed by the Philippine soldiers and paramilitary groups or slapped with trumped up criminal charges to bring them to prison. Their self-initiated schools are closed down. Their communities are bombed and they are evacuating.

AFP combat operations displace Blaan tribe

Around 54 Blaan households from three villages in Brgy. Upper Suyan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province evacuated on May 18 due to the encampment of the 73rd Infantry Battalion in their communities. Half of the evacuees are children. Some 200 individuals in a nearby village of Sufan, Brgy. Pag-asa, Alabel, Sarangani Province also wanted to evacuate but were blocked by the military. The residents sought safety at the Sitio Sufan Elementary School.

After a few days, some 50 families transferred to General Santos City, at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) compound while some 200 Blaan remained at the Sitio Sufan Elementary school.

The massive military operation of the 73rd IB started on March 27. Soldiers forcibly entered the houses of Blaans and even threw out their personal belongings. A fact-finding mission documented cases of human rights violations since then—threat, harassment, interrogation, food/economic blockade, torture, hamleting, violation of domicile, illegal search and detention, destruction and divestment of property, indiscriminate firing, forced servitude, military encampment in public facilities and forcible evacuation.

On March 30, at around 4:00 p.m., eight bombs were dropped on a populated area in a nearby village. The soldiers fired machine guns four times. Crops, animals, and the community’s source of water were destroyed by the bombing. This forced the residents to flee.

Paramilitary group attempts to sow terror

In Cabanglasan and Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, the De la Mance siblings are terrorizing the residents causing 100 Higaonons to evacuate, too.

Brothers Dante, Romulo, Dominador and Haiward de la Mance, known leaders of an armed group attached to the Philippine Army are involved in the extrajudicial killing of their own cousin Frenie Landasan on March 28, 2015 at Purok 3 Brgy. Dalacutan, Cabanglasan, Bukidnon. Landasan was chairperson of Dalacutan-Higaonon Tribal Association.

The killing of Landasan was a retaliatory act of the De la Mance’s for the death of their kin Dorlito de la Mance, who was punished by the New People’s Army for his various crimes against the people.

The Dela Mance brothers were also responsible for the attempted killing of Rosella Cahanggan and her nephew and three minor children, including a baby. The group was hiking along the provincial road in Malaybalay when the ambush took place. Members of the Dela Mance group strafed Cahanggan and her companions, which almost killed her nephew who was hit by a bullet on the right shoulder.

With the series of killings and frustrated killings, and the continuous harassment and threats from the De la Mance group, some 20 families or at least 200 individuals left their village on June 8 and went to the Provincial Capitol in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

Harassment and closure of Lumad learning centers

In Davao City, hundreds of Ata Manobo families from Kapalong and Talaingod, Davao del Norte have evacuated to the United Church of Christ in the Philippines to get away from the continuous threats and harassment of the military and paramilitary groups.

The 68th IB-PA is relentless in its campaign to close down the alternative learning schools of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC). The military has used the schools as its camp and threatened to kill Salugpungan teachers. The tagging of the schools as “NPA school” went as far as lobbying with the Department of Education to close down the Lumad learning centers and to open a similar alternative school which will be operated by the military.

The continuous terror brought by the presence of the AFP and its paramilitary groups led to the evacuation of the Ata-Manobo. While in the city, their loudest cry carries hundreds of years of the elders’ aspiration to educate their children.

For the Lumad, the establishment of the Salugpungan alternative learning schools is a priceless gift of education for the next generation, which the elders never had. These schools bear their hope to uplift their lives away from poverty and illiteracy. The schools teach the children to read, write, count, analyze, criticize, and fight in defense of their tribe and their land. ###

We call on friends and human rights advocates to send letters of concern calling for:

1. The immediate pull-out of the AFP units operating from the Lumad and peasant communities.

2. Justice to all victims of human rights violations.

3. Indemnification of victims of human rights violations especially those whose properties and sources of livelihood were destroyed during military operation.

4. The withdrawal of Oplan Bayanihan, the Philippine government’s counterinsurgency program that victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians.

5. The PH government and its state security forces to stop labelling and targeting civilians and self-help projects as “members of the NPA”, “enemies of the state”, and “NPA projects”.

6. The Philippine government to observe the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the major Human Rights instruments that it is a party and signatory to.

You may send your communications to the following agencies through mail, e-mail or fax

H.E. Benigno C. Aquino III
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
E-mail: op [at] president [dot] gov [dot] ph

Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216
E-mail: stqd [at] opapp [dot] gov [dot] net

Ret. Lt. Gen. Voltaire T. Gazmin
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600
Fax:+63(2) 982-5600
Email: osnd [at] philonline [dot] com, dnd.opla [at] gmail [dot] com

Atty. Leila De Lima
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-1908
Trunkline 523-84-81 loc.211/214
Fax: (+632) 523-9548
Email: lmdelima [at] doj [dot] gov [dot] ph, lmdelima.doj [at] gmail [dot] com, lmdelima.doj2 [at] gmail [dot] com

Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below.

URGENT ACTION Prepared by:

KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
National Office
2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin cor Matatag Sts., Brgy. Central,
Diliman, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146
Email: urgentaction [at] karapatan [dot] org; karapatan [at] karapatan [dot] org
Website: www.karapatan.org