DAVAO CITY — At least 1, 783 individuals equivalent to 378 families from different tribal communities in Surigao del Sur were forced to evacuate their communities due to intensified military operations, a human rights spokesperson said Wednesday.
In an emailed statement, Dr. Naty Castro, spokesperson of Karapatan in Caraga, said “22 tribal communities have been targets of massive military operations and gross violation of human rights were committed in the course of such operations.”
Castro said these tribal communities are under the umbrella organization of MAPASU (Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod, Continuing Struggle for the Next Generation), the inter-municipal Manobo organization from the towns of Lianga, San Agustin, Marihatag, Cagwait, Tago and San Miguel.
“MAPASU actively opposes the entry of large-scale gold, chromite and coal mining and land conversion within their ancestral lands,” said Castro.
According to Karapatan-Caraga, the victims of these gross human rights violations are 11 tribal communities in Barangays Diatagon and San Isidro in Lianga; 4 tribal and settler communities in Barangay Buhisan, San Agustin and 1 tribal community in Tago all of Surigao del Sur.
Castro accused as violators of human rights the Army troopers from 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion, 36th Infantry Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Battalion, 401st Brigade, operating troops of the CAFGU, members of the paramilitary group of Calpit Egua and the Gantangan – Bagani Force which is under the control of the 29th IBPA.
Karapata-Caraga said that MAPASU tribal leaders and members were subjected to “coercion, intimidation, and threat” to force them in admitting that they were either members or supporters of the communist guerillas.
“The tribal leaders and members of MAPASU were invited for interrogations in military camps, and were later threatened, harassed and vilified as members and/or supporters of the New People’s Army (NPA),” said Castro.
“Presently, over 120 civilians, mostly members of peasant and Lumad organizations in Caraga are facing fabricated criminal charges ranging from grave arson and malicious mischief to multiple murder and frustrated murder.”
Karapatan-Caraga also noted that “teachers and students of the Lumad Community Learning Centers have been harassed, threatened, vilified as NPA schools and used as temporary military camps by operating troops.”
“The evacuation caused 7 Community Learning Schools to close affecting 569 pupils. Three Learning Centers in Nalindog, Hayon and Sangay in Libas Sud, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur have also closed down because of ongoing military operation affecting 306 students.”
For KAMP, the National Alliance of Indigenous Peoples Organizations in the Philippines, the “depressing situation” of indigenous peoples is attributed to the “failure” of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) law.
“The IPRA law has failed to deter the plunder of our national patrimony and exploitation of our indigenous territories while NCIP has proven itself an effective instrument in peddling and expediting the sellout of ancestral lands to corporate interests,” said KAMP.
On the17th year of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997, KAMP’s Council of Leaders condemned the “NCIP’s idleness, silence, and futility in protecting indigenous peoples from killings, enforced disappearances, trumped-up charges, forced evacuations, attacks on our schools, militarization of our communities and other grave human rights abuses being committed against our people.”
“We hold the NCIP liable for the killings and human rights violations afflicted on indigenous peoples. The militarization brought on by NCIP-facilitated and State-backed projects encroaching on our ancestral lands has caused the numerous human rights violations and killings of our people,” said KAMP. (davaotoday.com)