CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Members of a tribal community in Bukidnon went to the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR-10) here to lodge their complaint against some soldiers who have allegedly harassed them on Tuesday, March 6.
According to the complaint filed by the “lumad” (indigenous people) at the CHR-10, soldiers from the Phil. Army’s 8th and 88th infantry battalions were allegedly responsible for committing the harassment in their village in Musuan, Maramag town, Bukidnon last month.
Members of the peasant group Buffalo-Tamaraw-Limus (BTL) alleged that soldiers from said Army units went to their village and made their presence felt and even accused them of being New People’s Army (NPA) supporters.
A BTL member, Ronilo Menente, told reporters that the soldiers were asking for the names and whereabouts of their leaders.
“They are asking for our leaders, their names and their whereabouts. We are worried for our safety,” Menente said.
Ireneo Udarbe, regional chairperson of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, said it is the right of the affected lumad to file their complaint before the CHR due to the harassment allegedly committed by the military to them.
Udarbe said some IPs are forced to “surrender” as they are accused of being Communist rebels by soldiers who are visiting tribal villages in the hinterlands of Bukidnon.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Army has urged civilians to identify soldiers alleged to have committed human rights violations so it could act on these complaints.
1st Lt. Teresita Ingente, spokesperson for the Phil. Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), said they are encouraging victims of abuses allegedly perpetrated by soldiers to file a formal complaint, but they want the names of the violators so proper action could be taken against any erring trooper, which includes demotion or removal from service.
She said the 4ID “will not hesitate” to demote or discharge any soldier who has been proven to have violated any law.
“The order of [4ID commander] Maj. Gen. Ronald Villanueva is very clear: He doesn’t want rotten soldiers within the rank,” Ingente said in an interview Wednesday.
But, she added, they cannot investigate and prosecute a soldier for his misdeeds if the complainant cannot provide them with names.
“The complainant must identify the soldier so it would be easier for us to investigate and so we could also verify if he is really on our roster,” she said.
Ingente said the 4ID’s human rights desk and the Civil Military Operations (CMO) office is open to any civilian who wants to file a complaint against a certain serviceman.
The complaint, she said, will then be forwarded to the concerned unit where that soldier belongs for investigation and proper action.
She assured that the Phil. Army is serious in going after erring soldiers in that if the 4ID leadership is not satisfied with the investigation, the Division commander can send an investigator to make further verification.
Since she assumed as the 4ID spokesperson early this year, Ingente said they have yet to receive a single complaint.
In a previous interview, Ingente however clarified that the soldiers from the 88IB did not make any arrest nor visited civilians in their houses in said area, but that the military just “invited” a handful of individuals to the Battalion’s headquarters in Kitaotao, Bukidnon.
She added that those invited were released 36 hours after they were brought in but the farmers refuted saying one was still detained. (davaotoday.com)