AFP operations cause unpeace in Lumad communities


"It is not the pathetic whining of AFP public affairs chief Col. Edgardo Arevalo and the AFP that needs to be heard. The military's excuses and rhetoric are desperate attempts to illicit sympathy. Rather, it is the voices of the Lumad who have been most affected by military operations. It is their testimonies that will give credence to the AFP’s abuses," said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay in response to Arevalo’s statement last Saturday, August 19, 2017.




Arevalo claimed that the Lumad are being exploited by ‘left-leaning groups’, and that it is the communist rebels who are militarizing communities. He further argued that these so-called left-leaning organizations are distorting facts to force the Lumad to evacuate, blaming the government’s legitimate peace and security operations for their displacement.


Karapatan’s secretary general argued that "there is no peace and security in rural and indigenous communities because of the AFP’s combat operations and encampment in communities. We could cite several documented aerial strikes in indigenous communities that have put the Lumad at risk, among other forms of rights violations. Who has the planes, the bombs, the capacity, the personnel to implement targeted attacks against the Lumad? Yes, Col. Arevalo, it is the very institution that you represent," Palabay said. 


As of July 31, 2017, Karapatan has documented 357, 659 victims of indiscriminate firing and aerial bombardments, targeting indigenous and Moro communities. This has resulted to the forced evacuation of more than 400,000 residents all over affected communities in the country. Moreover, 31,661 individuals have been affected by the use of schools and other public places for military purposes.


"We do not know what delirious thoughts Arevalo has to claim the uncovering of an alleged 'Taktikang Bakwit’. The AFP’s story-telling ability has taken a turn for the worse. Do they think that the Lumad are leaving their communities on purpose? Do they think that being displaced and being uprooted from their homes is a walk on the park, similar to vacations? Clearly, this is indicative of how the AFP lacks the basic understanding of the Lumad and their plights," Palabay retorted.


Arevalo also alleged that they have former NPA recruits, test papers, photos of operations that prove their claim. He raised the issue of the evacuation of the Lumad from Talaingod, Davao del Norte on 2015 where hundreds sought refuge at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran in Davao City. Palabay responded that "this is far from credible, coming from an institution known for torture to exact false admissions, perjured testimonies, fabricated documentary evidence and bribery. It does not help that collaborators within other government agencies, such as the NCIP, work to promote such fictitious narratives. With the AFP’s violations, there has been no scarcity of witnesses and accounts from victims and their kin that can easily disprove this."


"There is a systematic attack against indigenous communities, who have continued their struggle for self-determination. With US-instigated counterinsurgency programs of the past and present administrations, such attacks are a State policy. If it is still not clear for Arevalo and his trigger-happy cohorts, we will reiterate: If you want the Lumad home, withdraw your troops and put an end to counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan," Palabay concluded.