Samin hits police clamp down on civil liberties, from the Manila Peninsula to Surigao del Sur

Dec. 05, 2007

While we express indignation in the detention of Bishop Julio Labayen, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr, media people and other personalities in the aftermath of the Peninsula Hotel stand-off, we are alarmed that this is a sign of martial law where the police can clamp down on civil liberties.

To think that the PNP can “invite” an 81-year-old bishop and the former vice president to explain their presence in the standoff, wherein they were merely expressing their sympathy to the legitimate sentiments of disgruntled officials, shows that the police can impose their strong arm on anyone.

These actions take us back to the era of the Marcos dictatorship, where the state forces lord themselves over civilian rights.

This is all the more magnified in the outskirts of the countrysides. Recently, in towns of Lianga and San Agustin in Surigao del Sur, 2,000 Lumads fled their homes last November 21, as 500 members of the 58th Infantry Battalion camped in their homes and schools in the barrio of Diatagon, disrupting their lives.

The Lumads fear for their security as it became apparent the soldiers are using them as shields from attack of insurgents. School children in the Tribal Filipino School aged 7 to 10 were interrogated if they have relatives joining the NPAs. Names and cellphone numbers of residents were listed down; farm work was restricted. A young man was reportedly detained.

Such harassments of the soldiers have forced the Lumads to leave their villages and settle in the town centers. Children have been sick; residents have been longing to go back to their farms. But as long as the soldiers are in their communities, they fear to go back.

Whether it is in the Peninsula stand-off, or in an operation in the hinterlands, the state forces are imposing their strong-fist against civilian rule.

This indicates that the Arroyo regime’s Bantay Laya 2 is still in place, an operation which continues to treat civilians no differently from insurgents. This policy has earned criticism from the UN Alston report for its perpetration of human rights violations.

This policy also enforces the government’s thrust of clearing the communities in order to bring projects such as mining operations. It is said that Lianga and San Agustin sits on Andap Valley, which is the country’s second richest source of coal deposits. Already, Chinese investors have expressed interest in exploring these areas.

Experiences in the past showed that military operations paved the way for the entry of multinational companies that take hold of Lumad areas and exploit their resources.

It is condemnable that the Arroyo regime continues with these policies, in light with the growing poverty and crisis in this country. This is the case in Surigao del Sur. While the communities are striving to live and send their children to their school, the government is destroying their dreams and livelihood in the course of military operations and development aggression.

Amidst these continuing suffering and persecution of the people, we reiterate our call for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to step down. As long as her regime continues with its repression of civil rights and its corruption, her lack of moral ascendancy is her ultimate downfall.

In the name of justice, we condemn the regime’s acts of barbarity against civil liberties, human rights and press freedom. We call for the stopping of military operations and withdrawal of troops in Surigao del Sur, so that the 2,000 Lumads can return peacefully to their homes.


Sr. Elsa Compuesto, MSM
SAMIN Executive Secretary

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