By BRANDON LEE
QUEZON CITY — “In the end phase of the imperialist crisis, it is in the last frontiers of resources – in the ancestral domains of indigenous peoples and territories of national minorities that we see the aggression of the ruling classes, ” reacted Professor Fatima Castillo on the reports of human rights and international humanitarian law violations against national minorities.
This was during a public forum entitled, “Impact of AFP’s All-Out War On the National Minorities”, held at the College of Mass Communication, University of the Philippines, Diliman Quezon City on May 12, 2017.
The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) and Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM), joined the alternative schools teachers, ALCADEV, from Caraga and the wife of slain Moro leader Hadji Billamin Hasan in unmasking the current government’s Operation Plan Kapayapaan.
Audrey Beltran, vice chairperson of CHRA described the national internal security policy as, “Operation Plan Kapayapaan does not bring peace to our communities. Instead, it brings the harsh realities of the civil war to the fore with the attacks of the State security forces against civilians in their violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, especially when President Duterte declared an all-out war last February. ”
Nestor Peralta of the IPM gave a testimony on how 53 households in Namal, Asipulo, Ifugao were subjected to forced evacuation, intense threats, harassments, and intimidation by the 54th IBPA under the 5th ID, especially from February 12-17, 2017. Grave violations documented included military soldiers illegally entering and searching houses, pointing their guns at women and children which included a 5 year old boy. The forced evacuation also caused the community to lose around forty percent of their next harvest.
Last March 13-19, civilians in Malibcong, Abra were subjected to food blockades, curtailment of the right to movement, illegal arrest and detentions and indiscriminate airstrikes using phosphorus bombs causing fear among the community and the suspension of class for a week. The operations were conducted by the 24th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) under the 7th Infantry Division(ID) military combat operations led by Lt. Col. Thomas Dominic Baluga, known as the “Palparan Battalion”. Former General Palparan formerly headed the unit. He was responsible for the extrajudicial killings of more than 1200 activists and civilians during Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya I and II.
In Kalinga, around 30 soldiers of the 50th IBPA under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Tecson illegally arrested Rodrigo Baguilay last March 25, 2017. They also used two civilians as guides, illegally searched and seized properties in Mabaca which includes cash, cell phones and physically assaulted Silvestre Sicdawag, the Barangay Captain of Mabaca, Balbalan when he was trying to ensure the legality of the search and the safety of Baguilay . The AFP released Baguilay to the BJMP and filed trumped up charges of murder and frustrated murder against him.
On the afternoon of April 23, 2017, combined elements of the Provincial Philippine National Police and the 503rd Brigade headed by Lt. Daclag and Lt. Maestrado, respectively, illegally set up a checkpoint at Balantoy, Balbalan, Kalinga. Without properly identifying themselves and their units, and with name tags and faces hidden while they were in full battle gear with their long firearms,they conducted visual searches of the passengers of jeepneys , and rides of delegates going to the 33rd Cordillera Day. At first, their reason was to check on all permits of the jeepneys and buses that were hired but upon questioning of why the AFP was involved, Lt. Daclag stated that armed men might be among the delegates of the Cordillera Day. Cordillera Peoples Alliance Chairperson Windel Bolinget and other leaders asserted that the Cordillera Day is a civilian activity and that the conduct of the soldiers in asking for permits, taking photos of delegates, and the obvious lapse in protocols in checkpoints are a form of harassment to those attending a clearly civilian activity. After waiting for the last ride of the batch of delegates to pass through the checkpoint, Bolinget expressed to Daclag and Maestrado that more delegates are expected and they should not be held in such checkpoints.
At around nine o’ clock in the evening, the bus and jeep of the Ifugao Peasant Movement was again, held at the same checkpoint. This time, the AFP and PNP did not just conduct visual search of the rides. They directly went into the bus looking for National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Consultant, Kennedy Bangibang. When they could not find him, they looked for Brandon Lee, the human rights officer of IPM. They alleged that he had a firearm inside his bag and coerced Lee to submit to an illegal search of his things. While they were illegally searching Lee’s things despite his protest, they also searched some of the bags in the bus. All these were done without a virtue of a warrant. No firearm was seen in the bag.
The said cases will be brought to the attention of the GRP-NDFP Joint Monitoring Committee on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) on Monday, May 15, 2017. Last May 10, the cases were reported in a dialogue with a representative from the Embassy of the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG) and to International Humanitarian Law Expert lawyer William O’neil from the United Nations who is here in the country as a resource person for the ongoing GRP-NDFP peace talks. Copies of the peace mission reports from Abra and Ifugao were also received by both.
The series of activities were spearheaded by Sandugo and Katribu. # nordis.net