DAVAO CITY— A bishop of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines called for the military in Surigao del Sur to disband tribal militias and abide the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law
“The military should consider the option of disbanding the Bagani forces in Agusan and Surigao to avoid a repeat of the tribal communities’ displacements,” said Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in a phone intervie Wednesday.
Villasanta also stressed that “Armed Forces of the Philippines, above all, must respect and implement CARHRIHL.”
On Monday, a peace dialogue brokered by Gov. Johnny Pimentel which was attended by the military, church group and other sectoral groups has reached an agreement to allow some 2,000 Manobos to return in their respective tribal communities. Earlier, they fled their homes due to anti-insurgency operations by the military and Bagani forces led by Datu Calpet Egua.
A copy of the agreement obtained by DavaoToday enumerated five conditions for Manobo folks to return home, namely: No military and police forces would escort them; the corn sheller and stocks of the cooperative that were destroyed should be replaced; the school must be immediately repaired; a joint monitoring team after the PPOC (Provincial Peace and Order) meeting should be established to review and implement a 2011 agreement; the provincial government will file charges to Marcos Bucales and Datu Calpet Egua.
The agreement was signed by Vice Mayor Fernando H. Tejero, Provincial Administrator Efren Rivas, Punong Barangay Liby M. Te, a community representative Onel N. Campos and Capt. Jasper T. Gacayan as the representative for the military.
The signing of the agreement was witnessed by Police Senior Inspector (PSI) Emmanuel Guillermo, an officer from Philippine National Police.
Majority of the tribal communities has started returning to their homes as of Tuesday with no military and police escorts but Villasanta said some of the Manobo folks is set to return today after five dumptrucks provided by Governor Johnny Pimentel were not able to transport them yesterday.
“As long as CARHRIHL is not fully implemented civilians will be greatly affected by the armed conflicts. I hope that LGUs especially the military, police will familiarize the document so that they will be educated on how to protect the rights of the civilians in conflict areas,” said Villasanta.
“The government should consider the resumption of the peace talks with NDFP so that the root cause of armed conflicts will be resolved,” he said.
The CARHRIHL was signed on March 16, 1998 in The Hague, The Netherlands and was approved on April 10, 1998 by NDFP National Council Chairperson Mariano Orosa and on August 7, 1998 by then President Joseph E. Estrada. (Mart D. Sambalud/davaotoday.com)