The military has no place in IP communities, schools - Karapatan

On August 12, 2017, leaders of Lumad groups received information that elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will intrude inside the University of the Philippines, International Center where Lumad evacuees from Mindanao are currently staying. Military agents and other government agencies are planning to go to UP to talk to the children and have them return to Mindanao.

 

 

(Photo from Save our Schools Network)

 

 

"We already have a precedent for this. This is not ‘talking’ to the kids and the teachers per se, but a form of harassment. In July 2015, Rep. Nancy Catamco barged inside the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) to force around 700 Lumad evacuees to go home. Really, there is a deficiency in the logic of the likes of Catamco, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), and the military. They simply refuse to understand that the Lumad evacuated because of human rights violations and threats against their communities, and that bringing in more security forces will not solve the problem. The answer is as clear as daylight: pull out troops from communities," said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

 

The human rights group also reiterated that such maneuvers to "visit" camps have not only been used as a form of harassment and intimidation, but have been utilized to file trumped-up cases of child trafficking and child abuse, among others, against teachers and leaders of Lumad communities.

 

"In 2015, the military shamelessly fabricated statements from children to file trumped-up cases of child trafficking against alternative learning schools in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, Caraga region. Indeed, the military continues to sink to deplorable tactics to undermine the right to self-determination by indigenous communities, blatantly targeting the schools they built, the organizations they started and the solidarity they have cultivated," added Palabay.

 

Palabay also underscored that such attacks are part of the entire counterinsurgency operations, which specifically targets Lumad communities and brands them and their leaders as ‘enemies of the State’. She said that "even the President’s accusation that Lumad schools are built by the New People’s Army (NPA) comes from the framework of Oplan Bayanihan and Oplan Kapayapaan. If we are to put an end to such attacks, these US-instigated counterinsurgency programs must be immediately stopped." 

 

Today, August 17, 2017, Karapatan received reports that representatives from the NCIP, the Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is currently at the kampuhan of the Lumad inside UP. The evacuees reiterated to these government agencies their position that military elements are not allowed in their protest camp.

 

"This is an extension of the problem. The Lumad came from militarized communities and have evacuated due to the targeting of their leaders, their schools and the entire community. Now that the Lumad have sought refuge inside UP with the intent to highlight their cause and the ongoing violations done against them, the military again attempts to silence their struggle," said Palabay.

 

"If the Duterte administration, along with its agencies such as the NCIP, sincerely want the Lumad to be able to go home, then the government must immediately withdraw the troops from their communities, stop martial law in Mindanao, and end counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan. Otherwise, this government will just continue along inept and ineffective solutions, without truly addressing the roots of the problem," Palabay concluded.

 

 

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