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In response to intensified militarization by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Kahugpongan sa Lumadnong Organisasyon (KASALO) came out with this press release:
Some 241 individuals, mostly women and children, from a remote village in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte evacuated anew after about 100 elements of the Special Forces of the 4th Infantry Division under a certain Col. Camba encamped in their community and harassed the locals.
On November 10 at around 2 pm, 47 Lumad Mamanwa families and 49 peasant families hiked 12 kilometers from Sitio Zapanta Valley to the barangay multipurpose hall in Brgy. Bangayan Proper, along the National Highway in Kitcharao. Fearing for their safety, the residents decided to evacuate because of the prolonged presence of the military in their community.
Genasque Enriquez, Secretary-General of Kahugpongan sa Lumadnong Organisasyon (KASALO) based in Caraga region, lambasted the renewed military operation saying it is “the second time this year that the people in Kitcharao were forced to leave their homes because of military operation. This is also the fourth case of forced evacuation in the whole of the CARAGA region.”
“The military operation is meant to silence the people’s opposition against the exploitation of the region’s natural resources, especially our mineral resources. The Aquino government’s counterinsurgency campaign, the Oplan Bayanihan is also directed against those who oppose its programs that essentially favor the interests of the foreign big business,” asserted Enriquez.
A bakwit, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, said that on November 4, they learned that two 6×6 truckloads of soldiers from the 4th ID’s Special Forces were on their way to Zapanta Valley. The following day, residents saw 14 uniformed and fully-armed men fetching water from the community faucet in Ansili. The soldiers also went around the community asking for the whereabouts of the New People’s Army (NPA) and a number of tribal chieftains. The soldiers encamped about 30 meters across the community and stayed for two days.
The soldiers in the Zapanta Valley occupied the Multipurpose Hall, the office of the Zapanta Farmers’ Cooperative office (ZAPOREMCO), the Alternative Learning System (ALS) School and the houses of Emok Vivas, Pedro Pabre and Bobot Morado. There were about 100 fully-armed soldiers in the middle of the community. They also conducted “census”.
Farmers postponed their farm chores for fear of meeting soldiers on their way who might accuse them of being rebels. In the past, there were cases of harassments, beatings and even killings of those who were suspected as NPA rebels. “Our daily work, our livelihood is very much affected by the military’s presence in our communities, aside of course the trauma that we all experience,” added Enriquez.
Dulphing Ogan of KALUMARAN, the Mindanao-wide alliance of Lumad, noted the rising number of cases of forced evacuation because of military operations in indigenous and peasant communities.
“Since the Aquino presidency, an estimated 1017 families with 5725 individuals have already been forcibly evacuated in the course of intense military operations carried out by the Philippine Army, most notably in the CARAGA, and Northern and Southern Mindanao regions. These have brought great distress especially to the lives of the Matigsalogs, Mamanwas, Dibabawons, Maguindanawons, and Manobos,” the Blaan leader lamented.
The alarming trend of attacks against the Lumads of Mindanao has led to ManiLakbayan on November 30 – December 10, 2012. The said activity brings 60 delegates from all over Mindanao to the heart of Manila for a weeklong series of events to raise national consciousness on the human rights situation in Mindanao. The ManiLakbayan also highlights the effects of the large-scale mining and other government development projects to the environment, to the life, livelihood and culture of the indigenous peoples and peasants. The ManiLakbayan culminates with the celebration of the International Human Rights Day on December 10.