BAGUIO CITY — Indigenous peoples of Tanglag, Lubuagan, Kalinga demand the immediate pullout of Alpha Company of the 21st Infantry Battalion under the 501st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army of the Armed Forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from their community and a stop on the terrorist acts of soldiers.
In a dialog on November 20, residents asserted that the soldiers should leave their community at once stating that their presence endangers the lives of the people.
The residents also demanded that soldiers stop conducting a census, and other forms of intimidation and harassment. They also demanded for the lists of the order of battle, the allege NPA supporters and contachs, that the AFP claim are people from the community.
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) Secretary-general Jude Baggo stressed, “this is not an isolated case other communities in Kalinga, Mountain Province and Abra have experienced the same ordeal or even worse.”
He riterated that all these are part of the counter-insurgency program under Oplan Bantay Laya II (OBL).
Residents said that on October 10, soldiers led by a certain Lt. Camaganakan arrived in Tanglag and encamped at the Barangay Day Care Center despite the resident’s opposition. The soldiers said they would stay for just a few days but to date, they are still in the area. With the day care center occupied by the soldiers, the children are now using the church for their classroom.
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) provides that civilians have the right to be protected against the risks and dangers posed by the presence of military camps in urban centers and populated areas. The encampment and prolonged presence of the AFP in the area is a violation of this agreement.
On October 11, the government troops called a community meeting, where they announced that they would be conducting a medical mission and that they would get the names of the residents in the community to determine their medical needs. The government troops then conducted a census of the barangay but did not ask anything about medical needs instead asked infrastructure the residents think the community needs, and personal information on members of the family.
The military has not held a medical mission in the area. The medical checkup conducted on October 16 was a regular mission of the municipal government of Lubuagan, Kalinga.
A few days later, the soldiers came up with a list of names allegedly taken from an encounter with the NPA, after some residents refused to cooperate with the census they were conducting. They came up with an Order of Battle list where more names of community members were included. They announced the names of local residents supposedly found on the lists in community meetings and told them to personally report to the military to clear their names. Soldiers continue to harass those whose names supposedly appear on the list to clear their names.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston noted in his report that the military conduct meetings or census and individual interviews in target communities to identify NPA fighters and members of organizations labelled as front organizations. He added that attempts are generally made to get identified persons to “surrender.”
“The vilification and intimidation of persons who do not surrender too often escalates into extra-judicial executions; however, these do not appear fundamental to the strategy,” the report read.
On November 13, Sgt. Caronan illegally searched the sack of rice Venicio Nagoy was carrying. In another incident, the soldiers intimidated the local youth while playing basketball with them. One soldier said they might even be playing with members of the NPA.
Army troopers also attempted to convince residents to become military assets.
The continuing harassment and threats on the life, liberty and security of the community especially the accusations they are members of the NPA prompted them to seek legal advice.
The residents informed the military they would seek legal advice on what to do. The military allowed them to do so, but continued pushing residents to “clear their names.”
Army officers Lt. Faura, Lt. Francis Agustin, Banza, Canlas and Ventura (first names not supplied) attended the dialog with the community members and their lawyers on November 20.
Faura confirmed they are conducting an outreach program which required the conduct of a census. He iterated the list of names read to the residents was recovered from an alleged encounter with the NPA in Uma, another barangay of Lubuagan.
Soldiers admitted that Tanglag is marked red in their records and “therefore it should be cleaned.” They also insisted they could not show the OB because it is a confidential document.
They promised to stop the census and inquiries and agreed to leave the community during the said dialog, explaining, however, they could not remove the names of the residents from the OB , because only higher offices could do so.
The residents resolved after the dialog to make a written petition stating all their demands and furnish all concerned government officials.
As of press time the soldiers are still encamped in Tanglag. They claimed they had to stay in the community until they see the barangay petition.
Military pull out now!
“We laud the indigenous peoples of Tanglag for asserting their rights despite the terrorist acts and continuing threat the presence of state forces poses against their lives and security. At the same time we condemn the military for continuously wreaking havoc in the countryside,” Baggo said.
He encouraged other communities to follow the example of Tanglag, to firmly defend their rights against abusive military forces. # Kim Quitasol and Jimmy Suwagon