DAVAO CITY – The armed forces conduct of Community Organizing for Peace and Development drove the indigenous peoples away from their community, said a humanitarian mission report.

The Balit Mission took place on March 8 to 9 this year in Barangay Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

In a report sent to media on Wednesday, the missioners said they documented 93 cases of human rights violations, including indiscriminate firing, restriction of movement, gun-touting, destruction and divestment of properties, use of public facilities for military purposes, use of civilians as guides or human shields, fake surrenders, threats, harassments, and intimidation against the Banwaon in San Luis.

The report cited the case of Barangay Balit Chairperson Necasio Precioso, Sr who was  killed on December 22 last year. He was on his way to a dialogue at the Municipal Hall.

“Barangay Balit officials, led by [Precioso], lobbied the Municipal government of San Luis to pull out military troops from Banwaon communities and cease COPD operations immediately,” the report said.

They found out that Precioso figured in a heated argument with a certain Master Sargeant Andres Villaganas who accused Precioso and his family as NPA supporters.

“We also unearthed the killing of Salcinita Manlapinding and her nephew Oto Precioso on August 15 last year by the paramilitary group Mabantag led by Narding Pascual, a CAFGU member,” the missioners said.

The mission documented the encampment of elements of the army’s 26th Infantry Battalion at the barangay hall of Barangay Nuevo Trabajo and near the barangay hall of Barangay Balit, in violation of official pronouncements and the international humanitarian law enshrined in the Geneva Conventions.

Upon their arrival at Barangay Nuevo Trabajo on March 9, the mission team found soldiers inside the barangay office “with their uniforms and armaments inside.”

“Some civilian men are also carrying firearms walking around the community and slowly clearing their things from the office,” the mission team said.

Barangay chairman Norberto Ceno said there is one army squad or around 12 soldiers staying in barangay facilities. He said the soldiers “are conducting census, consultation-meetings, and monitors peace and order.”

In Barangay Balit, soldiers were also found holding their camp adjacent to the barangay hall. The mission team said they were met by team leader, Sgt. Henry Castillo, who said they are conducting census, consultation meetings and monitoring peace and order.

Meanwhile, in Barangay Policarpo, Barangay Councilor Luz Tecson denied that members of the military are using barangay facilities. Residents, however, said soldiers are using the barangay hall as “base camp”.

“They had just left the area before the mission team arrived,” the residents reportedly said.

The mission report said “the entry of the COPD without the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of the Banwaon is a clear violation of the right to self-determination. The barangay LGU of Balit, itself, said that the COPD was not requested and not needed by the community.”

On February 25, evacuees from various indigenous peoples communities held a dialogue with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who chairs the Davao Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC).

Duterte asked the military to stay away from schools and barangay halls in far-flung areas.

The mission recorded 14 cases of forcible evacuation; two cases of extrajudicial killing; three cases of death in evacuation; two cases of indiscriminate firing; 13 cases of violation of children’s rights; one case of restriction of movement, 1 case of gun touting; three cases of destruction of properties; five cases of divestment of properties; one case of violation of domicile; 12 cases of using public facilities for military purposes; two cases of using civilians as guide; and a case of fake surrender. (davaotoday.com)

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