State forces tighten noose on human rights workers and indigenous communities

On July 28, 2018, a 23-member fact finding mission composed of human rights workers from Karapatan Southern Tagalog were on their way to Atimonan, Quezon aboard a jeepney when they were fired at by men on-board a motorcycle. The mission team members were set to investigate reports of rights violations due to militarization in Atimonan, including the alleged death of 2 residents from Montes Callagan, Atimonan. The perpetrators attacked the mission team’s vehicle while they were still in Brgy. Bilukaw, Pitugo, Quezon, around 30 kilometers from the team’s destination. Bullets hit the vehicle’s wheels but none from the team were hurt.

“The attacks are relentless, and its perpetrators are getting more brazen, brutal and barefaced. The people’s rights are under threat, knowingly undermined by those in power. Human rights defenders who expose these violations and counter this regime’s false and contradictory claims, such as Duterte’s nonsensical separation of human rights and human lives, are likewise placed at greater risk,” said Karapatan secretary general Crsitina Palabay, adding that apart from rights defenders, entire communities are also continuously under attack.  

Also, in recent reports from the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), the 81st Infantry Battalion and the 54th IBPA have been encamping in Dandanac, Tamboan, Besao for a month; soldiers have stayed in the houses of at least nine residents, constricted the movement of villagers, and encamped at the Dandanac Elementary School. As of present, intensified military operations are still ongoing in the area.

“Militarization has caused residents to fear living in their own communities, restricting their movements and penalizing them for exercising their basic civil and political rights. The Duterte regime is training the Filipino people to believe that the government’s whole gamut of security forces are above the citizens, further normalized by the unwanted yet incessant presence of these butchers in communities,” said Palabay.

Palabay also cited the recent case of illegal arrest and detention in Tamboan, Besao, Mountain Province on July 20, 2018. Brothers Edmond Dazon, 49, and Saturnino Dazon, 40, both residents of Dandanac, were illegally arrested and detained by troops under the Alpha Company, 81st IBPA; the said unit is under the command of 1st Lt. Jade Lyzterdan Padinas Gavino.

Around 10 elements of the said unit barged into the farm hut of the Dazons, illegally searched their place and accused them of being members of the New People’s Army. They were held by the army for one day, then turned over to the Besao Municipality police. On July 23, 13 days after their illegal arrest, the military filed trumped-up murder charges against the two farmers.

On July 26, the people of Tamboan, accompanied by representatives of the Besao Municipal government, initiated a dialogue with the 81st IBPA. The community members presented their barangay resolution asking the military to leave the community. Instead of honoring the resolution, the army announced the enforcement of a condition that the residents have to present their identification cards for them to be allowed to tend to their farms. This has become especially burdensome because these months are harvest season.

Palabay noted that “the Duterte regime has come up with a very simplistic solution to address the roots of the armed conflict -- rights violations; the solution provided by the government’s counterinsurgency campaign is to kill us all, arrest us all or force us into submission by way of harassment and threats. This is not a government for the people; this is a government desperate to preserve itself and the interests of the few.”

“The political climate fostered by this regime is one of increasing repression and impunity. Its policies, such as the creation of the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action (IACLA), aim to make it more convenient for bloodlust vultures and their gun-wielding minions to violate people’s rights -- uninterrupted and veiled in twisted justifications. Given recent developments, things have taken a turn for the worse. Thus, it is imperative to expose, to resist, and continue the fight for genuine change and just and lasting peace,” concluded Palabay.

Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, 0917-3162831

Karapatan Public Information Desk, 0918-9790580