By John Rizle Saligumba
DAVAO CITY – Manila-based rights advocates and partylist representatives joined a week-long fact-finding mission starting Monday to look into the region’s “rampant human rights violations” in farflung communities.
Christina Palabay, secretary-general of the human rights group Karapatan, said they are here “to express support to the plight of the Manobos of Talaingod and other communities in the Southern Mindanao Region.”
“We want to bring attention to the abuses perpetrated by state forces to expose it to various national agencies including President (Benigno Simeon) Aquino and also to the international community,” said Palabay.
Bayan Muna partylist representaive Karlos Ysagani Zarate will join Palabay’s group to investigate “abuses” in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
“We also want to see the situation of schools which are said to be used by soldiers in their operation,” he said.
Zarate said there are existing laws which “prohibits state security forces from using public utilities and buildings and schools like international humanitarian law.”
Bayan Muna and Gabriela Women’s Partylist filed House Resolution 1079 last May 8 “calling on the House of Representatives Committees on Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights to conduct a joint investigation on the alleged human rights violations committed by elements of the 60th and 68th Infantry Brigades of the 1003rd Brigade and 4th Special Forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”
Aside from Talaingod, the 300 local and 24 national delegates will also investigate other areas including Paquibato district of Davao City where the 60th Infantry Battalion of the Army has been accused of forcing residents to sign “surrender” forms.
Other mission areas are Maco, Compostela Valley where small-scale miners and the Mansaka indigenous peoples group are allegently threatened to be displaced by large-scale mining company Apex Mining company; North Cotabato municipalities like Arakan, Magpet and Makilala where state forces allegedly conducted aerial bombings of farmer and Manobo communities. (davaotoday.com)