By RONALD GUSTILO
TARLAC CITY — Around 200 indigenous peoples and peasants from Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon provinces staged a protest action at the front gates of Camp Servillano Aquino, the headquarters of the Northern Luzon command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in Tarlac City last October 12.
Human Rights group Cordillera Human Rights Alliance Secretary-General Imelda Tabiando criticized the command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for allowing their soldiers encamp inside the civilian communities.
Several incidents of military encampments in the community were reported in the Cordillera Region such as in Sallapdan, Abra and in Tanglag and Uma in Kalinga. However, recently the soldiers encamped in Tanglag were already driven out by the community elders.
“You are not allowed to encamp inside the community, much more inside the civilian houses. Your enemies are not in the communities,” said Tabiando.
Tabiando also blasted the AFP troops for claiming that the ceasefire and the peace talks has already ended to justify their presence in the communities. She said that wherever community soldiers encamped, cases of human rights vioations follow. “To the soldiers, never use the state’s resources to kill your fellow Filipinos!” she added.
Ben Cardenas from Isabela, meanwhile, said that several government agencies in Cagayan Valley are still engaged in corrupt activities. According to Cardenas, several officials from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are conniving with landlords to maintain their monopoly of agricultural lands. Worse, troops from the AFP are providing security to the landlords. “DAR and DENR are actually the biggest recruiters of rebels here in Isabela,” said Cardenas.
Cardenas also said the peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) should continue. He said that the talks should address the roots of the armed conflict towards the realization of just peace in the country.
Sonny Serrano of Central Luzon Aeta Association also lamented that soldiers are protecting landlords at the expense of farmers and indigenous Peoples. Soldiers are being deployed to guard Lands which are being contested by the landlords and the peasants.
Reminiscient of the famous Nora Aunor movie, the Aetas said that they are also demanding for the end of the Balikatan games and the ouster of the United States military from the bases in the country as they are being used as live targets by US troops.
The groups demanded that the soldiers immediately pull-out from the communities and the erring units be immediately prosecuted as the communities are still demanding justice for the victims of human rights violations. # nordis.net