11 May 2012
Rights group slams human rights abuses in Trento, Agusan del Sur
Karapatan-Southern Mindanao slams massive military operations with indiscriminate aerial bombardments jointly launched by the 10th and 4th Infantry Divisions of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) in Sitio Upper New Visayas, Barangay New Visayas, in Trento town, Agusan del Sur. These military operations resulted to the forcible displacement, hamletting and other human rights abuses against farmers and civilian residents.
“Victims narrate the horror as they flee from their homes amidst aerial bombings and ground operations conducted by the 25th and 75th Infantry Battalions. This grand military action reveals the brutal costs of militarism hiding beneath the peace and development façade of Oplan Bayanihan,” Rev. Jurie Jaime, spokesperson of Karapatan- Southern Mindanao, said.
He added, “Up to now, communities in the boundary of the mining-targeted towns of Monkayo and Trento are blanketed with fear as the AFP and mining corporations are hellbent on clearing the area for Oz Metal Corporation and Monkayo Consolidated Mining Corporation partly-owned by Mayor Junjun Brillantes (Monkayo, ComVal Province) which is financed by Yinyi (Taiwanese mineral exploration).”
Karapatan-Southern Mindanao sent a Quick reaction Team on May 8 to investigate the incident and facilitate the concerns of the internally displaced persons. Its initial report confirmed there are 83 families with 397 individuals, including children, from Sitio Upper New Visayas and Sitio Maitom of Barangay New Visayas who forcibly fled their homes after seven occasions of indiscriminate aerial bombings and heavy ground operations led by the military in the morning of May 7.
“Even in the evacuation center, AFP soldiers in civilian clothes led by Col. Benavides of the 75th IB accompanied the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the distribution of relief goods, posing threats on the evacuees,” said Jaime.
Karapatan added that a civilian, 16-year-old “Jessie” (name withheld), was also wounded on his left thigh during the military operations. The 4th Infantry Division alongside with Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia’s EastMinCom of the Armed Forces of the Philippines once again paraded the wounded child and branded him as New People’s Army (NPA) child warrior. Jessie was instructed by his father in the morning of May 7 to gather some woods for their makeshift hut which they will use in time for the “Araw ng Trento.” Moments later, the military conducted combat heavy operations, indiscriminately fired and bombed the forested portion of the community in Sitio Upper New Visayas.
“The entire community including our family left our place because of fear. All I thought that my son Jessie managed to evacuate himself and that we would reunite at the evacuation site, but he was declared missing all day long. Until the evening of May 8, I was so surprised when my son arrived at the evacuation site but his left thigh was already wounded. But before I could reach him so that we can send him to the nearest hospital, the military men seized him and accused my son as NPA member. They arrested my son and brought him to the headquarters of 4th ID in Cagayan de Oro City. What we demand right now is for the military to release my son and we will have him treated to a civilian hospital,” lamented 54-year old Melchor Malimbasao, the father of Jessie.
One pregnant woman and another who just gave birth complained of heavy bleeding after escaping from the military operations in Upper New Visayas. Evacuees also complained that 25th IB elements ransacked their stores and slaughtered their livestock.
“We are greatly alarmed by the plight of those who are within the hamletted area of Upper New Visayas. The military should vacate the civilian communities to allow the residents, especially the women and children, to recover from the trauma. The 10th ID and 4th ID are culpable for violating international humanitarian laws for using civilian communities as launching pads of their war and endangering civilian lives,” said Jaime.
Jaime added, “With only barely a month and with the questionable promotion of EastMinCom chief, Maj. Gen. Jorge Segovia has clearly illustrated the blatant costs of Oplan Bayanihan. Under Segovia’s leadership, Oplan Bayanihan translates to classic militarism of rural communities marked with full-scale war operations, completely disregarding civilian lives and human rights laws for corporate benefit.”
Rev. Jurie Jaime, Spokesperson, 09215311893
Hanimay Suazo, Secretary-General, 09199675059