Urgent appeal for support from international community to stop bloodbath of the indigenous people of the Philippines

philippines_human_rights_protestsThe National Alliance of Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations of the Philippines has sent an urgent alert around the world on latest round of attacks on the indigenous peoples, leading to a virtual bloodbath. As many as 13 Lumads have become victims of extra-judicial killings, and four have been massacred. Text of the alert, received by counterview.org:

On September 1, 2015, at the break of dawn, the Magahat/Bagani Forces killed 2 Lumads and a staunch supporter of the indigenous peoples’ right to education in Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Killed were Dionel “Onel” Campos, chairperson of the MAPASU (Continuing Struggle for the Next Generation), a Lumad organization in Surigao del Sur covering almost 30 Manobo communities, his cousin Aurello “Bello” Sinzo, and Emerito “Emok” Samarca, the executive director of the ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development), the pioneer indigenous high school in the Caraga Region. Around 2,000 Manobo from Diatagon have fled and sought sanctuary in other communities and in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.

In August of this year, the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) together with the Magahat/Bagani Force have conducted renewed military operations and encamped in communities in Surigao del Sur.  The Magahat/Bagani Force is one of the paramilitary groups formed, armed, and supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Mindanao.

Onel and Bello are now the 67th and 68th victim of extra-judicial killings under the BS Aquino regime.  They are also among the 13 lumads or indigenous peoples in Mindanao killed since March of this year.

On August 18, the 1st Special Forces Battalion massacred Emer and Welmer Somina, and Norman, Herminio and Jobert Samia in Pangantucan, Bukidnon. The military was quick in covering up by announcing to the media that they had an armed encounter with members of the New People’s Army (NPA). The victims were members of the Manobo Farmers Association. Emer Somina and Norman Samia are aged 17 and 14.

On August 9, the Magahat/Bagani forces and 36th IBPA encamped in San Miguel, Surigao del Sur.  They interrogated, harassed and threatened members of the community, school teachers and staff, pointed guns at civilians and accused them of being members of the NPA. This led to the evacuation of around 108 families with an approximate 543 individuals from the village of Bolhoon, San Miguel. Due to the continued military operations, on August 30, the number of evacuees has peaked to 2,262 individuals with 420 families coming from several villages of San Miguel.

For the past months, the Aquino regime through the AFP, the Bagani forces and other paramilitary groups have committed the gravest crimes against the Lumad communities in Mindanao.  From March to September 1 2015, thirteen (13) Lumad leaders, activists, community members that include two children were killed in 5 incidents of extra-judicial killings and 4 massacres.  There were at least 6 incidents of forced evacuations from the provinces of Saranggani, Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur that involved more than 4,000 individuals, mostly indigenous peoples. They fled their homes and communities, some since May up to the present, due to heavy military presence and intense combat operations in their respective communities.

Twenty-five (25) Lumad schools and community schools catering to indigenous communities were pushed to halt operations for the entire month of June due to harassment by the AFP and sanctioned by the Department of Education (DepEd). From June 2010, there were at least 84 cases of attacks on 57 community schools that affected thousands of Lumad children. These attacks are in the form of the threats, encampment, destruction and divestment of properties, vilification, forced evacuation, harassments and intimidation of students, teachers, and more recently, the brutal murder of Emerito “Emok” Samarca, the executive director of the ALCADEV. In August, some of the elementary schools and the high school in San Miguel and Diatagon have suspended their classes.

Since 2012, there has been a marked increase in the deployment of military troops in Mindanao. Currently, 55 combat battalions or more than 50% of the AFP forces are deployed in Mindanao. And since then, human rights violation against the Lumad communities have risen to alarming proportions.

The Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), a military command operating in Mindanao which is a part of the state’s killing and terror machinery, announced in January 2015 that they have until 2016 to clear out the Davao and Caraga Regions from the New People’s Army (NPA) and declare the victory of the Oplan Bayanihan. Recently, the EastMinCom was acclaimed by BS Aquino for its “excellence.” They boasted of their trophies – the numbers of killed, captured, arrested, and surrendered “NPAs”.

However, the numerous cases of human rights violations, the cooptation of indigenous peoples’ socio-political systems and active division of our communities and the filing of trumped-up charges against indigenous leaders and members are the actual results of the Oplan Bayanihan.

Aquino’s counter insurgency program, the Oplan Bayanihan, is aimed to crush a persistent armed revolutionary movement in the country. But in actuality, Oplan Bayanihan also targets the legal opposition and resistance of people’s organizations and communities to secure the business interests of the foreign corporations and their local big business partners. The Oplan Bayanihan was implemented by BS Aquino in January 2011 right after it extended the dreaded and brutal Oplan Bantay Laya of the Arroyo regime.  Heavy military deployment and intensive military operations are conducted in indigenous communities and territories. Indigenous peoples’ legitimate defense of their rights, land and resources against plunder and land grabbing are responded to by violence. Resisting communities suffer grave human rights violations.

We expect and dread the exacerbation of human rights violations with impunity against indigenous communities in the last remaining 9 months of the BS Aquino Regime with the continuation of the Oplan Bayanihan.

We urgently appeal for support to stop the killings of indigenous peoples in the Philippines:

  • End the widespread militarization of indigenous communities and blatant violation of IP’s collective and human rights
  • Immediately conduct an independent and transparent investigation of the 68 extra-judicial killings under the Aquino regime
  • Justice for the 168 extra-judicial killings under the Arroyo regime and all victims of human rights violations. Arrest, prosecute and punish all perpetrators of human rights violations
  • End the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians
  • Pull out military and paramilitary troops from indigenous communities. Dismantle the Sanmatrida, Salawakan, Triom, Task Force Gantangan, Bulif, Alamara, Magahat, Bagani Force, and other paramilitary groups and private armies
  • Revoke the Executive Order 546 which legitimizes the formation of paramilitary groups
  • Stop all destructive projects in ancestral territories. Review all permit of large-scale mining, energy and hydro-electric plants, agri-business plantations, and commercial logging
  • Uphold the indigenous peoples’ rights to land and self-determination!
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