Karapatan submits info to UN on recent Lumad massacre, forcible evacuation in Mindanao

On December 7, 2017, Karapatan submitted a letter addressed to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, raising the attacks against indigenous leaders and communities in the country in line with the military’s counterinsurgency operations and President Duterte’s martial law imposition in Mindanao.

“These recent incidents and previous cases of extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests, harassment and forcible evacuation of indigenous communities in Mindanao are illustrative of the worsening human rights situation in the country, as exacerbated by the counter-insurgency program and drug war. With the martial law declaration still in place, and with recent pronouncements of the military endorsing the extension of said declaration to allegedly quell terrorist threats, the situation is bound to impact on civilians, especially indigenous communities in Mindanao, who have experienced grave threats on their lives and security in the past years,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in the letter sent to the UN SR Tauli-Corpuz.

The letter cited the massacre of eight T’boli and Dulangan Manobo farmers who were killed by elements of the 27th and 33rd IBPA in Sitio Datalbong, Brgy. Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato; two others were wounded in the incident. The indigenous peoples were occupying the area langrabbed by the Consunjis, used by their DMCI corporation as a coffee plantation. The said land area, however, is part of the Dulangan Manobo and T’boli ancestral domain.

The rights group also raised the series of evacuations affecting different indigenous communities. On November 26, 2017, around 1pm, residents – 1,173 individuals or at least 244 families - from at least nine Lumad communities in Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga and Brgy. Buhisan, San Agustin in Surigao del Sur forcibly evacuated due to military combat operations of the 75th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army. The number includes 406 Lumad students and 59 teachers of nine Lumad schools.

On December 1, 2017, due to the incessant attacks of elements of the 73rd IBPA in Blaan communities, around 210 households have started evacuating from the villages of Lilab, Basyawan, Balataan, Banlas, and Makol, all situated in the boundary of Alabel and Malapatan in Sarangani.

In the Northern Mindanao region, at least twenty-one Banwaon families, composed of 139 individuals, from the villages of San Pedro, Binicalan and Mahagsay in San Luis town, Agusan del Sur forcibly evacuated from their communities on December 4, 2017 due to military operations of the 26th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army.

“The common factor in all these abuses is the conduct of military operations in communities. It is the military’s unwelcome presence in these areas that have uprooted indigenous communities from their homes and have endangered their lives and livelihood,” added Palabay.

Karapatan urged the special rapporteur to conduct an independent investigation on the cases cited in the letter, and to urge the Philippine government to stop its military operations in civilian communities, including that of indigenous peoples in Mindanao.

The rights group earlier submitted a letter of allegation to the UN SR on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitary Executions and on Human Rights Defendes on April 10, 2017 and December 2, 2017, respectively.

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580

*Copy of Karapatan’s letter available upon request sent to karapatan@karapatan.org.