By ALMA B. SINUMLAG
LUBUAGAN, Kalinga – While the core of the discussions on the International Human Rights Day held in Western Uma of this town was human rights violations committed by the state security forces, elements of the 50th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army were roaming around the program area and were encamped at the elementary school, day care center, and at the barangay hall.
Earlier, the villagers of Western Uma registered their clamor for the soldiers to pull out from their community. For more than a year of encampment, several human rights violations were committed by the said unit which were documented. They submitted the petition at the headquarters of the 50th IBPA but it fell on deaf ears. Instead, harassment increased. The villagers mentioned during the activity that those who were brave to reveal the violations were further intimidated, threatened, and harassed.
Whenever the villagers tell the soldiers to move out of the community, the soldiers would tell them that they will only move out if the government tells them to.
It has been reiterated during the International Human Rights Day activity which was attended by more than 400 delegates from all over the province that setting up a military camp inside the community is a violation of the peoples’ collective rights. They pointed out that the presence of the soldiers endangers the civilian population.
The delegates condemned the multiple human rights violations that included sexual harassment against the villagers of Western Uma. They also shared that it is not only their village that is experiencing occupation of the military encampments but all other municipalities of Balbalan, and Pinukpuk.
In the declaration of the delegates, it is stated, “Ti panagkampo ti AFP nga awan pulos pammakada ken ti panangiyaleng-aleng iti posisyon ti umili ket nalawag a panagtagibassit ken pananglabsing iti karbegan mi iti bukod a pangngeddeng” (The AFP’s encampments without the peoples’ consent and the continued belittling of the communities’ demand for them to pull out is outright discrimination and violation of our right to self-determination).
Kennedy Bangibang, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant on Cordillera Affairs for the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GRP) and NDFP raised the concern on the AFP’s disrespect for the ongoing peace talks. As he shared the updates on the peace talks, he admonished the soldiers who were occupying the elementary school, day care center and the barangay hall. He demanded them to go back to their barracks if the AFP have any respect for the peace negotiations. Bangibang ensured the community that he will relay the situation to both peace panels during the 3rd round of talks in Rome, Italy in January next year.
Rogyn Beyao, Secretary General of Innabuyog Kalinga censured the military’s use of the schools as camps. Beyao cited it is a violation of R.A. 7610 otherwise known as “Schools are Zones of Peace” and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that protects the rights of children to life and education.
While the activity was ongoing, elements of the 50th IBPA were roaming around, taking pictures of the delegates, instilling fear especially among the villagers. The community also suspected that the soldiers were trying to sabotage the community activity by holding an unscheduled symposium on December 9 when the people scheduled the preparation of the venue for the International Human Rights Day celebration. The soldiers even tried to divert the attention of the delegates to the community activity with an unscheduled dental mission.
Jude Baggo of Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) said, it is ironic that every time people celebrate the day for human rights, the violations escalate. “We should be celebrating the respect of human rights but the situation always calls for condemnation, of the violations of human rights, ” Baggo said. # nordis.net