Pull out troops in Mindanao!—Karapatan

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines, all 55 combat battalions, is wreaking havoc all-over Mindanao. The massacres, disappearances, forcible evacuations, closing down of schools, illegal arrests will only stop if army troops pull out now and the BS Aquino government junks its Oplan Bayanihan! It is because of these terror acts that we need to support the peoples of Mindanao in defending their land and lives,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.

Massacre and extrajudicial killing

Only a week after the massacre of peasant and Lumad leaders on June 14, another Lumad leader became a target of the 66th IB-Philippine Army. Initial reports that reached Karapatan said the military strafed the house of  Sabello “Tatay Bello” Tindasan, 60, Chairperson of Compostela Farmers Association (CFA) on June 21. Tindasan was in a CFA meeting at the time but his wife, a son and a three-year old grandchild, and his son’s two friends were at the house. Tindasan’s son and his two friends are all 14 years old. The feet of Tindasan’s grandchild were wounded from shards of jalousie windows hit by bullets.

The incident is linked with the community’s opposition to the entry of the Agusan Petroleum and Minerals Corporation (AGPET), a large-scale mining company of the Cojuangcos, which applied for a mining permit for 12,444 hectares of land in Compostela. The CFA also resisted the military encampment in their community.

“The military is in a frenzy. There is no let-up in this state-perpetrated violence. Aida and Henry Seisa are still missing after the massacre on June 14 in Paquibato District. Yet, the AFP is still bloodthirsty,” added Palabay. The Paquibato massacre killed Datu Ruben Enlog, Randy Carnasa and Oligario Quimbo and wounded a 12-year-old child. The army was quick with its cover-up by calling those killed as members of the New People’s Army.

Aside from the recent victims of massacre, there are at least 92 victims of extrajudicial killing in Mindanao from July 2010 to March 2015.

Forced evacuation

Since April to June 2015, at least 1,000 Higaonon, Blaan and Ata Manobos from the provinces of Bukidnon, Sarangani and Davao del Norte were forced to leave their homes and sought safety and  shelter in town and city centers.

About 500 Blaan from three sitios in Brgy. Upper Suyan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province evacuated on May 18, due to the encampment of the 73rd IB in their communities. An additional 200 more individuals from nearby Sitio Sufan wanted to evacute but were prevented by the military. The illegal arrests and torture,  economic and food blockade, indiscriminate firing and bombing, which destroyed crops, animals and the source of water prompted the Blaans to flee.

In Cabanglasan and Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, the Dela Mance paramilitary group  are terrorizing the residents which led to the evacuation of some 100 Higaonons. Attached with the 26th IB, the Dela Mance group was involved in the killing of Frenie Landasan, chairperson of Dalacutan – Higaonon Tribal Association on March 28, 2015 and the frustrated killing of Rosella Cahanggan and four minors. The killings were then followed by threats and harassments against community members.

In Davao City, at least 401 Ata Manobo from 18 villages of Kapalong and Talaingod, Davao del Norte have evacuated in the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) compound due to the heavy presence of the military that resulted in a string of human rights violations.

Closure of Lumad schools

The 68th IB-PA has targeted the Lumad learning schools of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC). Tagging the institutions as “NPA schools,” the AFP has used all means to close down the schools—through encampment, threatening to kill teachers and by directly requesting the Department of Education regional office.

Palabay said, “More than half of the 170,000 documented victims of the AFP’s use of schools, medical and religious structures for encampment are in Mindanao. Depriving children of their right to education has no justification. The BS Aquino’s accountability becomes graver when it tried to shut down schools established by poor indigenous  people’s communities with help of various NGO’s.” Over 3,000 children will be affected by the close down.

“The ‘Mindanao-is-a-terrorists’-nest’ premise of Oplan Bayanihan is a lie. The real terrorists are the Philippine Army and its paramilitary groups, headed by Commander-in-chief BS Aquino,” said Palabay in a protest action in Mendiola led by Bayan and Karapatan. The group called for peace in Mindanao. “The terrorist AFP should get out of Mindanao.”

Note: This is a statement by Karapatan Public Information Desk

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