ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION – URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-075-2013
23 May 2013
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PHILIPPINES : Soldiers prevent displaced indigenous villagers from access to their farms
ISSUES: Indigenous people; victims’ assistance & protection; internally displaced persons
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been informed that soldiers are harassing and preventing indigenous villagers, who were displaced en masse last month due to an armed conflict, from getting access to their farms to harvest crops. The soldiers imposed restriction on the villager’s movements on the pretext of ensuring their safety; however, it is clear that their intentions are to repress them for not informing about the presence of rebels in their community.

CASE DETAILS:

On April 18, 2013, soldiers attached to the 39th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army, under the command of Lt. Col. Norman Zuniega, figured in an armed encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA) in Sitio Tah Canten, Malawanit, Magsaysay, Davao del Sur. A witness said that the soldiers allegedly used the villagers, namely Pedro Mandrial, Antonio Camag and Rey Mandrial, as their guides during the combat operation. The three villagers were last known to be in the military custody at the headquarters in Santa Cruz , Davao del Sur.

The fighting between the rebels and soldiers resulted in the displacement of about 57 households (249 persons) in Purok 7, Malawanit, Magsaysay, Davao del Sur. The villagers fear, as it commonly happens in remote villages where conflicts take place, that the soldiers would target them on the suspicion that they are either supporters or rebels. Given below is the list of displaced persons.

After this massive displacement, when some of the villagers attempted to return to cultivate their land and to harvest their crops in order to support their families the soldiers deliberately prevented them. The soldiers argued on pretext that it was to protect them because they might be caught in the crossfire between rebels and soldiers; however, even after the fighting ended the villagers were still refused permission to return home.

For example, on April 21 at 11am, returning villager Maria Batawan and her son, Richard, were inside their house where soldiers who had just arrived and were descending from a military operation in the mountains, pointed their weapons at her. In her testimony written in Cebuano, she said her son, Richard, was also questioned.

On April 22 at 7am, another villager, Arsenia Manipe and her children had approached the soldiers to allow them to return home to collect the 12 sacks of corn, 30 sacks of charcoal and to be able to cultivate their land, but the soldiers refused. They told Arsenia that if she goes, she could be caught in crossfire. The soldiers also told her that she and other villagers had lied to them that there are no rebels in their community.

To address this problem, local NGOs on April 25 wrote to the town mayor, Jess Lumanog, requesting for a dialogue. However, their request was ignored because the mayor’s representatives choose to have a dialogue with the soldiers instead of the villagers who made the request. On April 26, when the villagers approached Mayor Lumanog they were unable to speak to him because he was inebriated.

On April 29, a coalition of local NGOs conducted a Fact Finding, Relief and Psycho-social Mission and provided relief to the displaced indigenous villagers. They also submitted the initial findings of their mission but Mayor Lumanog was not in his office to receive it because he was busy campaigning for the election.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write letters to the authorities listed below urging them to conduct an investigation into the allegations of the villagers and to give orders to the soldiers to stop their repression of the indigenous villagers, notably the most vulnerable–the women and children. They should be allowed to return to their villages, to access their farms and harvest their crops.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear ________,

PHILIPPINES: Soldiers prevent displaced indigenous villagers from access to their farms

CASE 1:
Name of victims: Maria Batawan and her son, Richard
Date of incident: April 21 at 11am
Place of incident: Purok 7, Malawanit, Magsaysay, Davao del Sur
Alleged perpetrators: 39th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army

CASE 2:
Name of victims: Arsenia Manipe and her children
Date of incident: April 22 at 7am
Place of incident: Malawanit, Magsaysay, Davao del Sur
Alleged perpetrators: 39th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army

List of displaced persons/number of dependants:
1. Mr & Mrs Tomas Sending/4
2. Alberto Sending/7
3. Eliezel Manipe/5
4. Belly Aliponte/4
5. Gemar Layal/2
6. Eliezer Sugal/3
7. Antonio Camag/5
8. Leonardo Bulahing/6
9. Danny MenĊsa/3
10. Rosalino Gaudia, Sr/3
11. Rosalino Gaudia, Jr/2
12. Elpidio Malod/1
13. Jessie Bulahing/2
14. Jeovannie Navarez/3
15. Alberto Camag/4
16. Eric Lacida/2
17. Pedro Mandrial, Sr.
18. Alejandro Mandrial/2
19. Rey Mandrial/2
20. Jaime Camag, Sr/2
21. Jaime Camag, Jr/2
22. Florante Yudo/5
23. Celestino Waling/3
24. Lito Salutan/1
25. Saripada, Pendatun, Jr/3
26. Johnrey Pendatun/1
27. Aldrin Pendatun/1
28. Rito Malayang/3
29. Panyawan Pendatun
30. Ronald Donde/1
31. Rolando Oloy
32. Rolly Layal/3
33. Danny Camag/5
34. Villarie Bulahing/2
35. Maria Batawan/4
36. Ceriaco Layal/1
37. Randy Saliga/2
38. Samuel Manipe/6
39. Renato Dalagonan/2
40. Palabiana Dalagonan/1
41. Jimmy Banan/2
42. Allan Salina/4
43. Nonie Cris Navarez/1
44. Bonnie Layal/1
45. Griselda Gaudia/4
46. Marcelo Layal/1
47. Johnny Layal/1
48. Jerry Torres/2
49. Teodoro Salina
50. Ruel Salina/3
51. Cornelio Obat/2
52. Temoy Salina/1
53. Narito Dianga
54. Vicente Samling/3
55. Sonny Pamat/3
56. Willie Reid
57. Martin Samling/3

I am writing to express my concern that the soldiers mentioned above are allegedly harassing and preventing indigenous villagers, who were displaced en masse following an armed conflict, from getting access to their farms to harvest their crops and cultivate their land in Malawanit, Magsaysay, Davao del Sur. The villagers have since been denied of their means of livelihood and subsistence because of the restrictions that the soldiers have imposed on their movements.

To protect the lives of these villagers I can understand that there might be a need to impose restrictions. However, in this case I am of the opinion that this restriction is needless because there were no risk the villagers would be caught in crossfire. In fact, the soldier’s refusal for them to have access to their farm was to repress them for not informing the soldiers that they were rebels in their village.

This is evident in Cases No. 1 and 2 above. In Case No. 1, the soldiers pointed their weapons at Maria Batawan and her son, Richard, when they returned to their house on the suspicion that they were rebel supporters. The soldiers also questioned Richard on whether or not he had any knowledge about the activities of the rebels. In Case No. 2, the soldiers refused the request of Arsenia Manipe and her children to allow them to return to home so that they can collect and sell the sacks of corn and charcoal. The soldier told Arsenia that she and other villagers were liars when they did not inform the soldiers about the presence of the rebels.

I am concern that by refusing to allow access to their farmland, the villagers have already been denied of their livelihood and subsistence. This is no longer for the purposes of giving them protection, but a denial of their livelihood. The inability of the municipality of Magsaysay , Davao del Sur to provide relief for these displaced villagers is also not acceptable. I am aware the despite efforts by the local NGOs and the villagers to request for assistance from the mayor, Jess Lumanog, they were either ignored or were not taken seriously. In one occasion they could not speak to him because he was inebriated.

I urge you to ensure that the villagers are allowed to return to their communities so they can harvest their crops and cultivate their land to support the needs of their family. Unless there are clear and present dangers on the lives of the villages, there should be no restrictions on their constitutional rights to move freely.

An inquiry must be conducted on the arbitrary exercise of power by the soldiers, like questioning and interrogating villagers, on mere suspicions that they are either supporters of the rebels, or rebels themselves. The soldiers have no police powers; thus, this practice is unacceptable. If allowed, it breaches the victim’s constitutional rights to be presumed innocent and be represented by legal counsel.

Yours sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Benigno Simeon Aquino III
President
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street , San Miguel
Manila 1005
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
Email: corres@op.gov.ph /opnet@ops.gov.ph

2. Lt. General Emmanuel Bautista
Chief of Staff
Armed Forces of the Philippines
AFP-GHQ office, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 9116436

3. Ms. Loretta Ann Rosales
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
PHILIPPINES
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
E-mail: chair.rosales.chr@gmail.com

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

AHRC Philippines page: http://www.humanrights.asia/countries/philippines

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