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Military officials from the Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion and a group of evacuees from Kamansi in Lagonglong town sit down for a dialogue arranged by Misamis Oriental officials at the capitol. The dialogue late last week was deadlocked. (photo by joey nacalaban)

Group: Stop attacks on poor communities

Evacuees from Lagonglong town express their fears and air their gripes during a dialogue at the capitol on Friday. (photos by joey nacalaban)

HUMAN rights group Karapatan has called on the Armed Forces to stop what it said were attacks on civilian communities, citing cases in Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Norte and Davao del Norte.

Karapatan issued the call even as urged the military to abide by previously signed agreements between the government and the National Democratic Front such as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (Carhrihl) “instead of its repeated efforts to sabotage the peace process… through its war-mongering and militarist ways.”

In  a statement sent to the Gold Star Daily, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay cited the case in Misamis Oriental where nearly 40 Higaonon families from Sitio Camansi, Barangay Banglay in Lagonglong put up a makeshift evacuation center at the capitol grounds here after being forced to flee.

Karapatan alleged that soldiers from the 58th Infantry Battalion occupied the homes of the indigenes.

“It was the community’s sixth forced evacuation since 2015,” Palabay noted.

The group criticized the military for what it said was a latest string of attacks on civilian communities, including killings of human rights advocates previously harassed and tagged by military personnel as New People’s Army rebels or supporters.

“Especially with martial law imposed in Mindanao, numerous cases of human rights violations have been reported and filed before complaints mechanisms, but these are being brushed aside and whitewashed by Malacañang,” Palabay said.

Palabay also cited more cases. On June 6, 2018, Higaonon peasant leader Jose Unahan, a member of the Unyon sa Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and an anti-mining activist, was shot dead in Sitio Tagbakon, Culit, Nasipit, Agusan del Norte.

Palabay said that on May 27, Beverly Geronimo, a member of Tabing Guangan Farmers Association and also an anti-mining activist, was shot dead at around 12 noon last Sunday, when she, her daughter and two of their relatives were on their way back home in Salvacion, Trento, Agusan del Sur.

Palabay said two armed men in civilian clothes fired at them, and Geronimo sustained seven gunshot wounds, one in the head, causing her immediate death. Her daughter and relatives survived.

Palabay said that due to her anti-mining activism against large scale mining companies such as Oz Metals and Agusan Petroleum, she had previously experienced threats and harassment, from soldiers encamped in their community since 2009.

In five villages in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, Palabay said, over a hundred soldiers have encamped on communities and occupied Lumad schools since May 29.

“The widespread presence of soldiers in civilian communities offer no security for civilians. Instead, they are the primary purveyors of state terror and rights violations, and they also worsen the climate of impunity. This is the reason why people in communities detest the soldiers. They should pull-out from the communities,” Palabay said.

Karapatan has claimed to have documented, during the unilateral ceasefire period from Aug. 21, 2016 to Feb. 3, 2017,  human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by soldiers and officers in line with the Duterte administration’s counterinsurgency program, with at least 17 extrajudicial killings of peasants and indigenous peoples, 20 frustrated killings, 109 arbitrary arrests, while 28 were arrested and detained.

The group alleged that during this period, thousands have been killed in the course of the implementation of the government’s war on drugs.

“The military’s presence, encampment and operations in civilian communities have escalated since then,” said Palabay.

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TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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