Military operations in Lianga, Surigao del Sur displace Lumad community

Opinion & Analysis Philippines Jul 14, 2017 at 3:47 pm

IMG_3674Less than a year after returning home

Dear friends,

Military elements in full combat gear conducted operations in nine (9) communities in the mountain areas of Lianga, San Miguel and San Agustin in Surigao del Sur since July 2, 2017. These communities have recently just returned home in September 2016, after spending a year in an evacuation center in Tandag City. Residents witnessed the brutal killing of their leaders on September 1, 2015, which prompted their evacuation. Now, amid martial law and continuing militarization, these indigenous communities are again threatened by military operations.

Join us in condemning the renewed military operations, threats and harassment in indigenous communities. Let us support the demand to junk the Duterte administration’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, as well as the immediate lifting of martial law in Mindanao.

BACKGROUND OF THE INCIDENT:

On September 1, 2015, MAPASU (Malahutayong Pagkigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod) chairperson Dionel Campos and Kiwagan Datu Juvello Sinzo were brutally killed in front of more than 200 residents of Km. 16 and Han-ayan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Residents, teachers, and students were forcibly gathered by composite elements of the 75thInfantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA) and paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani in Km. 16 to witness the execution of their leaders. After killing Campos and Sinzo, paramilitary forces threatened the entire community, saying they will all be massacred if they do not leave. After the military and paramilitary elements left, the dead body of ALCADEV (Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development) executive director Emerito Samarca was found in the faculty guest room of the school compound. The entire incident came to be known as the Lianga massacre.

Following the incident, around 2,700 individuals from twenty-six (26) communities evacuated to Tandag City on the same day. They were only able to return to their communities last September 3, 2016, after strong international and national campaign forcing military elements to withdraw from the communities. 2

In 2015, trumped up charges of trafficking were filed against eleven (11) Lumad school volunteer teachers and community leaders, while in evacuation.
Since their return, residents of 26 communities have been rebuilding their farms, homes, schoolsand livelihood. Lumad schools run by TRIFPSS (Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur) and ALCADEV started holding regular classes for the school year 2017-2018 this June.

Upon President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017, a checkpoint was placed in front of the military detachment in Post 1, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, requiring residents and visitors to show their ID or write their names in a logbook.

ACCOUNT OF THE INCIDENTS:

On July 2, 2017,at around 2am, about 60 soldiersof the 75thIBPA in full combat uniformwere seen gathered at a detachment in Post 1, Brgy. St. Christine, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. They were later seen going towards the other communities.

On July 3, 2017at around 6am,the same number of soldiersfrom the 75thIBPA were seen in Km. 6, Brgy. St. Christine, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Later that day, more soldiers from the 36thIBPA and 16thSpecial Forces Battalion (SFB), all in full combat uniform, arrived in the Lumad communities of Hayon and Sangay Brgy. Libas Sud, San Miguel. These communities are located on the other side of the mountain, adjacent to the Lumad communities in Lianga.

On July 4, 2017,soldierswere seen in the communities of Tambonon and Bishop in Brgy.Bolhoon, San Miguel. These two communities are also located on the other side of the mountain, near the Lumad communities of Lianga.

Meanwhile, residents of Emerald in Brgy. Diatagon and Panukmoan saw soldiers in combat jungle uniform in the farm areas of their community, prompting them to evacuate near community centers. Residents of Mike, Km. 16 and Km. 14 evacuated to Han-ayan and stayed in the Lumad schools of TRIFPSS and ALCADEV along with the students and volunteer teachers.

On July 5 to 6, 2017,at around 11 pmto midnight, while the residents slept, bomber planes flew over the said communities, circling about 15 times. Residents from 9 Lumad communities –Han-yan, Mike, Km. 14, Km. 15, Km. 16, Manluy-a, Kabuluhan, Panukmoan and Decoy –all of Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga evacuated to and arrived in Emerald at around 6 o’clock in the morning. The residents, fearing for their lives given the harassment and threats that they have been constantly subjected to, thought it best 3 to move out.

As of this writing, about 2,043 men, women and children are staying in the school grounds and classrooms of the Simowao Tribal Community School, located about 9 kilometers from the national highway and poblacion of Brgy. Diatagon.

Reports of food blockade have also been reported by the teachers, as military checkpoints prevent relief from entering evacuation centers. This is despite the desperate need for food and other assistance for evacuees.

Recommended actions:

Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

1. The immediate investigation of the separate incidents to be conducted by an independent body;

2. The immediate lifting of martial law which has legitimized aerial bombings, illegal arrests and other community violations;

3. The immediate granting of permission to aid and relief assistance to be given to the evacuees;

4. An end to the filing of trumped-up charges against community leaders, teachers, and members and leaders of progressive organizations;

5. The Philippine Government to withdraw its counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, which has served as basis for military operations and militarization of indigenous communities, as well as the attacks against schools and other learning institutions;

6. The Philippine Government to continue the formal peacetalks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP)and move towards the discussions and forging of substantive issues such as Comprehensive Agreements on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), which includes protection of the right to education;

7. The Philippine Government to pursue its commitments under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which prohibits militarization of communities and protection of learning institutions from attacks; and

8. The Philippine Government to adhere and respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all major Human Rights instruments that is a party and signatory.

You may send your communications to:
• H.E. Rodrigo Duterte
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
E-mail: op@president.gov.ph or send message through http://president.gov.ph/contact-us/

• Hon. Jesus Dureza
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216
Email: stqd.papp@opapp.gov.ph, feedback@opapp.net

• Ret. Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-6193 / 911-0488 / 982-5600
Fax:+63(2) 982-5600
Email: info@dnd.gov.ph, webmaster@dnd.gov.ph

• Hon. Vitaliano Aguirre
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline: 523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614
Email: communications@doj.gov.ph

• Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102
Email: chairgascon.chr@gmail.com

Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below:

URGENT ACTION Prepared by:

KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
National Office
2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin cor Matatag Sts., Brgy. Central,
Diliman, Quezon City 1100 PHILIPPINES
Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146
Email: urgentaction@karapatan.org; karapatan@karapatan.org
Website: www.karapatan.org