CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Reports of continued repression against the tribal peoples in Mindanao has alarmed the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) as they slammed the Duterte administration “for allowing the perpetuation of these reprehensible acts”.

UPLM has noted that more cases were being brought up against members of the “lumad” (indigenous peoples) communities in some parts of Mindanao allegedly being perpetrated by state agents.

“UPLM sees a pattern of repression crafted by the reckless and brute hands of the AFP and their machinations to push the [lumad] peoples to helplessness and disenfranchisement. And it is happening to the whole island of Mindanao,” the group said.

The lawyers’ collective has also taken notice of the cases against the IPs, which they believe were mere fabrications.

“All these cases, patently based on lies and manipulations. All these allegations, fabricated. All these charges trumped up and would not stand in a court of law,” they said.

Lawyer Czarina Musni, a UPLM member based in this city, said they have documented various human rights violations allegedly committed by members of the security forces against civilians in the past few weeks.

What’s surprising, Musni said, was that there were also local government officials involved in human rights abuses.

In Bukidnon, she said, hundreds of civilians were promised they will be given assistance by the local government, but instead they were made to confess that they are NPA fighters and supporters and that they have surrendered to the government.

“Their names were taken and after that it was announced that they were surrenderers, as NPA members, as NPA supporters. This is deception,” Musni said.

Musni said UPLM is working with the national and regional offices of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to document these cases and for filing of appropriate charges against the suspected perpetrators.

In Cagayan de Oro, for instance, some lumad evacuees from a mountain village in Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental, were charged with forcing their neighbors and relatives to leave their homes and stay at the Provincial Capitol grounds.

Sariza Acosta, who acts as the spokesperson for the evacuees, said they had to flee their homes in Sitio Camansi, Barangay Banglay, for fear of being caught in a cross fire between government troops and the New People’s Army (NPA).

The more than a hundred displaced persons have been staying in makeshift shelters for more than two months.

Acosta said they will only go back to their homes if the military will leave their community.

But some relatives of the evacuees have filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus claiming that their loved ones were coerced into joining the IDPs.

Acosta said they are ready to face their accusers in court to disprove that there was no coercion that happened.(

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