Foreign activists decry rights abuses in Mindanao

Aug. 11, 2014

DAVAO CITY –  US-based and Fil-am delegates who participated in a recent International Solidarity Mission deplored the rights abuses they saw in several areas in Mindanao.

In a report they gave during a press conference, the North America-Philippines Solidarity Affair (NAPSA) said that people in all the places they have visited “suffered from massive human rights violations caused by militarization of the communities under Oplan Bayanihan.”

Oplan Bayanihan is the counter-insurgency operational plan of the Aquino administration.

In Talaingod, Davao del Norte the group said that there were “attacks on learning schools for Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and poor farmers in the countryside where government has not provided basic social services.”

“We were shocked to learn that (these occurred) even in communities where NGOs and People’s Organizations of IPs have taken it upon themselves to put up their own schools for their children because government has not provided these basic services,” said in the statement.

It has been three months since the Talaingod Manobos returned to their ancestral lands after they evacuated in April due to the military’s shelling and occupation of their communities.

See: Military allows troops withdrawal in Talaingod; Manobo evacuees to return home

Meanwhile, 10th Infantry Division spokesperson Ernest Carolina said in a statement that “in the deployment of the AFP’s Peace and Development Teams (PDTs) in the immersion areas in Talaingod, there were already reported incidents and complaints of intimidation, coercion, extortion and recruitment,  allegedly by the armed group New People’s Army (NPA).”

“During the PDT’s deployment, the teams have identified concerns from the residents, mainly on roads, electricity, water system, livelihood, and reported utilization of school classrooms by the alleged NPA for teach-ins and revolutionary activities, disrupting the schedule of students and causing fear among them,” he added.

But according to the NAPSA’s statement report, “these schools have been used by the Philippine military as camps, and where students and teachers have been vilified as rebel supporters.”

Kuusela Hilo of International League for People’s Solidarity – United States (ILPS-US), whose group covered the communities in Talaingod, said that the livelihood, education, and economy of the people were greatly affected by militarization.

Hilo added that “all these communites want to do is to live in peace. And they’re willing to fight for peace. They want to farm; they want to farm with freedom and study in peace.”

NAPSA together with local rights and church-based organizations also covered communities in SOCKSARGEN, Caraga Region, Bukidnon and Zamboanga del Sur provinces last August 1-6.(

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