Re: Communities in Sorsogon, Bicol Region , Philippines affected by military operations
I write as President of CHRP (UK) and Chair of the Global Council of ICHRP.
You will be aware that on July 4, 2013, an encounter between members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and the 31st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) occurred at Barangay Calmayon, Juban, Sorsogon. Since then, the 31stIBPA launched continued military operations in this part of Sorsogon. With these, are reports of human rights violations from residents.
On September 21, another encounter transpired between the NPA and the 31st IB in Bulan, an adjacent town of Juban . Three barangays of Bulan (Dolos, Patag and Lapinig) were affected by the firefight. The fighting lasted till 9 p.m.
The following day, September 22, between 3 to 4 p.m., two military helicopter gunships were seen reconnoitering around Calmayon and Maalo, Juban. About the same time, around 25 soldiers camped at the central part of Barangay Maalo. According to witnesses, one of the helicopters repeatedly fired at Barangay Maalo. Hit by the volley of fire were coconut plantations and farms at Sitio Alolocot, Barangay Maalo. Due to great fear, the residents of the two barangays evacuated. According to the local government of Juban, they assisted 122 people who evacuated on September 23. A total of 111 households are in Camayon and 68 in Maalo. Nine families left to stay with their relatives in Aroroy, Catanosan and Bacolod . There are no reports as to where the others evacuated. Many of them, though, have reportedly returned to their communities after the said incidents.
The headquarters and detachments of the 31st IBPA are very near these villages, their presence and operations have been incessant since July this year. The attack of the Philippine military’s helicopter gunship in these populated areas was the first in the Bicol region under Benigno Aquino III’s watch. The whole of Bicol region’s citizenry
was greatly appalled by this attack and the ongoing military operations in the area, which has affected the livelihood and safety of the civilian population in the communities.
I appeal, together with human rights advocates in Bicol, church workers, children’s rights advocates and journalists, that there must be an independent fact-finding and humanitarian mission in the affected communities in Barangay Calmayon and Barangay Maalo in Juban, Sorsogon.
There is desperate need for resources to provide assistance and service to the victims. The residents are in need of food, medicines (for diarrhoea, upper respiratory tract infection, coughs and cold, fever), and clothes.
I ask you to urgently consider:
1. Immediate pull-out of members of the 31st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army from these communities;
2. Immediate investigation of the military airstrikes and combat operations in the affected communities;
3. Immediate withdrawal of your counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians, and I remind you that the Philippine Government is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions. This observance has been sadly lacking during both the presidency of your predecessor and, sadly, during your own.
In love and service of the Philippines and Filipino people everywhere
The Reverend Canon Barry Naylor
President CHRP ( UK ) Chair of the Global Council ICHRP
0116 261 5371
(h) 0116 255 0031
(m) 0775 785 3621
Urban Canon and Sub Dean
Leicester Cathedral, St Martins House, 7 Peacock Lane , Leicester LE1 5PZ