Karapatan to AFP: Stop attacks vs communities, stop sabotaging the GRP-NDFP peace talks

Human rights group Karapatan today said that instead of its repeated efforts to sabotage the peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) through its war-mongering and militarist ways, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should stop its attacks against civilian communities and abide by previously signed agreements, such as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). 

“Previously, during the unilateral ceasefire period between the two parties from August 21, 2016 to February 3, 2017, Karapatan documented human rights violations perpetrated by the military and police in line with the Duterte administration’s counterinsurgency program, with at least 17 extrajudicial killings of peasants and indigenous peoples, 20 frustrated killings, 109 arbitrary arrests, while 28 were arrested and detained. In this period too, thousands have been killed in the course of the implementation of the government’s war against drugs. The military’s presence, encampment and operations in civilian communities have escalated since then,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay. 

Karapatan scored the AFP on the latest string of attacks against civilian communities, including killings of human rights defenders previously harassed and tagged by military personnel as NPA members or supporters. “Especially with martial law imposed in Mindanao, numerous cases of human rights violations have been reported and filed before complaints mechanisms, but these are being brushed aside and whitewashed by Malacañang,” Palabay stated. 

On June 6, 2018, Higaonon peasant leader Jose Unahan, a member of the Unyon sa Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and an anti-mining activist, was shot dead in Sitio Tagbakon, Brgy. Culit, Nasipit, Agusan del Norte.

On May 27, Beverly Geronimo, a member of Tabing Guangan Farmers Association and also an anti-mining activist, was shot dead at around 12 noon last Sunday, when she, her daughter and two of their relatives were on their way back home in Brgy. Salvacion, Trento, Agusan del Sur. Two unnamed armed men in civilian clothes fired at them. Geronimo sustained seven gunshot wounds, one in the head, causing her immediate death. Her daughter and relatives survived. Due to her anti-mining activism against large scale mining companies such as OZ Metals and Agusan Petroleum, she had previously experienced threats and harassment, from soldiers of the 25th, 66th, 67th, and 75th Infantry Battalions of the Philippine Army encamped in their community since 2009.

“From May 15-31, 2018, some 160 members of the Dumagat tribe forcibly evacuated from their homes at Sitio Dadiangao, Brgy. Umiray. General Nakar, Quezon Province, due to military operations and encampment of the 80th and 202nd Infantry Brigades of the Philippine Army, 2nd Jungle Fighter Company, and the 2nd Infantry

Division-PA in their community. The military also imposed a food blockade, adding to the misery of the evacuees. This is reminiscent of hamletting style of military operations during martial law in Marcos’ time,” Palabay said.  

“In Misamis Oriental, around 35 Higaonon families (or 158 individuals) from Sitio Camansi, Brgy. Banglay, Lagonglong put up a makeshift evacuation center at the Cagayan de Oro City provincial capitol grounds. The residents were forced to evacuate when soldiers of the 58th IBPA occupied their homes. It was the community’s sixth forced evacuation since 2015,” Palabay added.

In five villages in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, more than a hundred soldiers have encamped on communities and occupied Lumad schools since May 29.

“The widespread presence of soldiers in civilian communities offer no security for civilians. Instead, they are the primary purveyors of state terror and rights violations, and they also worsen the climate of impunity. This is the reason why people in communities detest the soldiers. They should pull-out from the communities,” Palabay concluded. 

For reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 09173162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 09189790580