Lumad in Surigao del Sur evacuate yet again, military withholding relief

“This is the Duterte regime’s version of peace – terrorizing communities and strengthening military rule over civilians. This trend has progressively worsened under Duterte, with the Armed Forces of the Philippines turning indigenous and peasant communities into their playground for rights abuses. Their unwanted presence in rural areas has once again caused the evacuation of more than a thousand individuals,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

 

 

(Photo courtesy of SOS Caraga)

On July 16, 2018, after more than a month of military presence in several Lumad communities in Surigao del Sur, Caraga, around 1,607 individuals from 15 communities evacuated out of their ancestral lands. Karapatan Caraga reports that around 100 soldiers have been encamping in several areas in Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

 

Residents were forced to evacuate after a series of abuses perpetrated by the 75th Infantry Battalion, including sexual harassment against women and children. Community leaders were also threatened with imprisonment and trumped-up charges. Teachers and students in the Lumad schools in the area were also constrained from continuing with their classes. Evacuees include 568 students and 48 teachers from the said schools.  

 

As of late, the 75th IBPA are reportedly withholding relief meant for the evacuees. The perpetrators are said to be pressuring the local government to prevent the release of food and other immediate help to force the victims back to their militarized communities.

 

Palabay emphasized that this is not an isolated case. She added that “this is martial law; this is Duterte’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan in action; this is the State’s despotic response to any and all communities who have shown resistance against anti-people policies. Combining these elements, we have a repressive state apparatus with a green light to do whatever they want, and a tyrannical government doling out resources and granting permission for such abuses to continue.”

 

This is not the first time that the Lumad in Brgy. Diatagon, Surigao del Sur have evacuated. Back in 2015, residents in the area witnessed paramilitary members publicly executing their community leaders, which prompted them to evacuate. Also in 2017, said communities were again forced to flee due to intense militarization, attacks against their community schools, and reports of drones hovering above their dwellings.

 

“We remind the military that it has no business in communities, and that their presence adds to the insecurity and threat already enveloping areas plagued by their paramilitary minions and their other similar ruthless, bloodthirsty cohorts. We reiterate our call to pull-out military troops in civilian communities and lift martial law in Mindanao. We also call on concerned agencies to respond to the needs of those currently in the evacuation center,” Palabay concluded.