By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
TABUK CITY — Kalinga folk, with other delegates to Cordillera Day 2017 stormed the gates of the head quarters of the 503rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army in this city calling for the pull out of army troops in the province on April 25.
The protesters demanded the pullout of army troops in Kalinga for committing various human rights violations. The protest action against militarization concluded the Cordillera Day 2017 events.
David Agulin, chairperson of the Kalinga Agkaykaysa Salakniban Aglawlaw ken Gammeng (Kalasag) who spoke during the protest action, condemned soldiers of the 503rd brigade for the human rights violations they committed against his people.
“Stop violating the people’s rights,” Agulin said.
Kalasag is a municipal wide organization of Balbalan folk and the local chapter of CPA in the said town.
Agulin slammed soldiers for entering their communities with out the people’s consent. He added that soldiers have also been disrespectful of their customs and traditions.
“They barge into our communities without our consent and act as if we are the outsiders inside our own villages,” Agulin said.
Agulin reiterated that by Kalinga customs visitors to the community are expected to respect and follow the community’s custom and traditions.
According to Agulin his organization has documented cases where soldiers have used civilians as “guides and shields” during their operations. He said that the soldiers have sown terror in their communities.
Agulin said that the soldiers have also harassed the people of Bolo village during their preparations for the hosting of Cordillera Day 2017. He said that the soldiers have terrorized three minors from Bolo and used them as guides in their operations.
Juan Dammay of the Tignayan dagiti Mannalon ti Kalinga (TMK) who also spoke at the rally slammed the 503rd brigade for stooping so low as scattering spikes along the provincial road in an attempt to bar the delegates from holding their protest action.
“The army was not contented with setting up checkpoints along the way that they even scattered spikes to deflate the tires of our vehicles, but they did not succeed,” Dammay said.
Dammay also said that earlier in April 23, soldiers held and illegally searched Cordillera delegates in Balantoy village.
Windel Bolinget, chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) said that the 503rd brigade also has a bloody record in Abra. He said that this army brigade was responsible for the massacre of the Ligiw father and sons in March 2014 when it was stationed in Lagangilang, Abra.
Bolinget further said that vehicles of the delegates to Cordillera Day 2011 held in Baay-Licuan town in Abra were also spiked. He said that it was the 503rd brigade that was stationed in Abra at that time.
Bolinget also said that the 503rd brigade was responsible for bombing runs that terrorized villages in Malibcong town in 2013.
“The bloody record of these state security forces is more than enough reason to drive them out of our communities, they should be held accountable and punished for disrupting the peace in our villages,” Bolinget said.
Ama Banag Sinumlag, an elder of the Butbut tribe and member of the Binodngan People’s Organization appealed to government soldiers and police officers who are from the Cordillera to refuse to become instruments in violating the rights of their fellow Cordillerans.
“To the police officers and government soldiers who are indigenous people, we understand that because of poverty you are forced to join the state security force to feed your families and we do not blame you, but please do not violate the rights of you own people,” Ama Banag said.
Ama Banag asked indigenous peoples who are in the state security force to spare civilians in disposing of their orders to deal with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.
“As police officers and agents of government, you are supposed to safeguard the people and ensure that their rights are respected, but why are you doing the opposite, you are actually violating the peoples’ rights,” Ama Banag reiterated.
Renato Reyes, secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan who joined Cordillera Day 2017 and the protest at the army head quarters in Kalinga said that Filipinos should not fight each other, they should instead unite and fight poverty and the rotten system that perpetuates social injustice.
Reyes said that violence and militarization will not put an end to the armed revolution in the country. He said that the government should instead focus on the peace negotiation with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and address the roots of the armed conflict. # nordis.net