By ADELA DEYAEN WAYAS/PHILIPPINE TASK FORCE FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RIGHTS
QUEZON CITY — “Ancestors of the indigenous peoples (IPs) have passed on to us their lands to nurture, till and protect, however foreign companies along with the military forces and bureaucrats use their power to take advantage and plunder the environment.”
“Napipilitan kaming lisanin ang aming mga lupain,” cried Roy Higanto of the Tumadok Peoples’ Organization in Panay whenever the military forces enter their ancestral lands. He said the presence of the military only cause fear in men, women and children.
Because of the many reported cases of violations of the rights of the IP, two house resolutions were filed to the National Cultural Communities (NCC) headed by Ifugao Congressman Teddy Baguilat, Jr. to investigate these violations allegedly done by the military forces and to come up with necessary actions.
NCC received the House Resolution 1154 “Inquiry into reported intrusion of military forces belonging to the 3rd Infantry Division – Philippine Army (PA) into the ancestral domain of indigenous people (IPs) in Panay Island” submitted by Anakpawis Representative Rafael Mariano and House Resolution 1857 “Inquiry into the practice of government soldiers of setting up camp in schools, barangay centers and other public civilian facilities as well as living in the homes and civilian communities in ancestral domains during counter-insurgency operations as exemplified by the recent actions of the PA’s 29th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur” of Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño.
“Kung lilisanin nila ang kanilang mga lupang ninuno ay saan sila pupunta at ano ang kanilang ikabubuhay?” explained Rep. Mariano during the said congressional inquiry on March 21, 2012. He emphasized that “encroachment of ancestral lands will not only deprive them (IPs) to the land which they have long tilled and protected but could also result to violation of their rights to a secured livelihood, destruction of culture and traditions.”
The said congressional hearing was attended by personnel of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Department of Education, Amed Forces of the Philippines, and KATRIBU Partylist together with other peoples’ organizations.
AFP encroaches, IP leave
In the report of the CHR CARAGA region, in October 29, 2012, 804 individuals from 8 different IP communities were displaced from their ancestral domains and were housed at the Diatangon Gym Llianga Surigao del sur.
CHR CARAGA found in their investigation that the presence of the military has been the reason of the evacuation of the IP. The Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) is not suited for the development in the ancestral domains and there was no Free and Prior Informed Consent from the IP community. Troops from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have also occupied the communities and set up patrol bases and detachments inside the ancestral domains of the IP. The 29th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army occupied the communities of Han-ayan, Km 16, 17, 14, houses of the Lumad Kabuluhan, New kabuluhan, and Yadawan.
However, while there are such investigations and reports, the AFP continues to deny the accusations. “Occupation of schools is strictly not allowed by our policies…this matter is part of the UN Resolution wherein this is prohibited,” said Col. Domingo Tutaan. He added that before the entry of the military in the said areas they have secured resolutions coming from the Municipal Peace and Order Council of the Municipality of Llianga and from Barangay Diatagon allowing them to undertake COPD in the said areas.
But this did not accord to the customary ways of the IP. The resolutions from the local government units are not being recognized by the Lumad. They also believe that this is a violation of their rights as provided in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.
In November 3, 2011, the IP evacuees asserted to return to their communities only if no more military troops occupy their houses and safety is ensured.
IP and children at risk of military presence
Kakay Tolentino, Secretary General of Katribu Partylist, said these practices of the armed forces only serve the all-out war or counterinsurgency program or Oplan Bayanihan of the government. “Ang ganitong mga programang ipinapatupad ng AFP at ng estado ay hindi nilulutas ang mga paglabag sa karapatang-pantao ng mga Katutubo at lalo pang nilalagay lamang nito ang mga katutubo sa bulnerableng sitwasyon.”
Katribu also reported during the hearing that military encampments in IP communities imperils the lives of the IP especially the children.
A concrete example she said is the AFP’s declaration on the killing of the Rodelyn Aguirre, four year old, and her sister Rhoda who is in critical condition. The AFP washed their hands and threw the blame to the New Peoples Army. AFP claimed that the cause of the blast in Barangay Tacayan Tapiz, Capiz came from an improvised explosive device (IED).
Roy Higanto said the Tumadok People’s Organization and the people do not believe this statement of the AFP. He iterated that in a fact finding mission conducted in the area, they suspected the explosion to be from an M203 and not an IED.
The puzzle is now on the part of the 3rdInfantry Division – Philippine Army situated in the military reservation in the area which is 200 meters away from the incident. Military reservations are reserved for military war games and weapon’s testing.
According to the AFP it has strategic value for the safety of the people. But it could be said that there is no safety in military reservations because innocent people like Rodelyn are killed in these areas.
Other military practices
Houses, barangay halls, centers and schools are also endangered because of military intrusions like in the Alternative Center for Agriculture and Development in Surigao del sur and the Literacy and Enumeracy Schools of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Northern Mindanao.
Foreign corporations like mining, dams, and plantations are aggressive to pursue their projects. They use the military forces in threatening IP resulting to various human rights violations. The armed forces also encourage and recruit IP to intelligence, para military groups and defense network to disunite and divide the people.
Extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances still continue to grow in number. On March 5, 2012, Jimmy Liguyon was gunned down in front of his house in Barangay Dao. He was suspected to be a leader of a paramilitary group. Liguyon was a UCCP Lay leader and was the vice chairperson of KASILO, an IP organisation from the southern municipalities of Bukidnon. Also, in his capacity as the Barangay Captain of Dao he refused to allow mining companies to operate in their area.
The peoples’ call
As an IP organization that upholds the rights of the IP, Katribu Partylist demands for the removal of the Oplan Bayanihan of the government and para-military groups especially in IP communities.
Katribu and other people’s organizations call for an immediate investigation of the past and latest violations of IP rights and to reprimand all perpetrators accountable in the killings and human right violations.
And as recognized by the UNDRIP and IPRA, the right of the IP to self-determination must be recognized in all venues at all times.
At the end of the congressional inquiry, Cong Baguilat as chairman of the committee resolved to have an on-site hearing in Capiz to further investigate the case therein to be led by the CHR. He added more hearings will be scheduled to fully investigate the said cases and violations of human rights especially to the IP. # nordis.net