Press Release

Barug Katungod Mindanao

(Mindanao Stand for Human Rights)
September 11, 2015

Armed man on patrol at confab of Mindanao human rights defenders

An armed man believed to a government intelligence officer was apprehended by convenors and delegates of the Barug Katungod Mindanao Conference today at the conference venue in Cagayan de Oro City. The intelligence man carried an ID bearing the name Rolando L. Gomonit, Sr. He was caught in possession of a .45 caliber pistol and two magazines of ammunition.

Identifying himself to the secretariat as a member of the media, he asked for a conference kit and was looking through the names of the delegation of the conference. In the registration sheet, he identified himself as a member of an organization he named “Lumad.”

The secretariat then asked the assistance of Barug’s local partner Karapatan – Northern Mindanao and the local Lumad group Kalumbay. They recognized him as the same intelligence officer they have apprehended in one of their human rights activities this year.

Gomonit was immediately turned over to the police. Delegates asked for his camera phone when some of them reported that he was seen taking pictures of the delegates. His phone was found by one of the delegates in the women’s toilet. This they also turned over to the police.

When asked how he knew about the conference, he said he just followed one of the delegates who was wearing a shirt of one of the member organizations of the conference.

About a hundred human rights activists in Mindanao gathered in Cagayan de Oro City today for the Barug Katungod Mindanao (Mindanao Stand for Human Rights) Conference as a response to the intensifying military attacks and political repression experienced by fellow human rights defenders in Mindanao.

The conference condemned the recent AFP-backed paramilitary attacks on a school director and 2 Lumad leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, and the Talaandig and Manobo victims of a massacre allegedly perpetrated by military units in Pangantucan, Bukidnon.

The shameless deployment by the government of an armed intelligence man on a human rights conference is a glaring example of impunity in Mindanao. Armed intelligence men roam free in the cities and communities, documenting gatherings and meetings and reporting them to the military and the police. These information become one of the government’s sources for trumped-up charges being filed against human rights activists and villification of their organizations and activities. However, under the internal security plan Oplan Bayanihan of the Aquino government, any information against activists becomes a license to kill, massacre, arrest and villify activists, human rights defenders, youth, peasant and worker organizers, Lumad and Moro rights workers, and members of peoples organizations.

Barug Katungod Mindanao believes that the Aquino government is hellbent on attaining its Oplan Bayanihan targets before the end of his term in 2016. It has thus been intensifying its attacks on human rights defenders by making human rights activities a basis for filing trumped up charges. This shows a new trend of criminalizing human rights defenders for their human rights work. #


Press Release

Barug Katungod Mindanao

(Mindanao Stand for Human Rights)
September 11, 2015

Reference: Sr. Noemi Degala, SMSM (Mobile No.: +639204563802)

Mindanao Human Rights Activists Fight Back Against Rising Martial Law in Mindanao

About a hundred human rights activists in Mindanao gathered in Cagayan de Oro City today for the Barug Katungod Mindanao Conference as a response to the intensifying military attacks and political repression experienced by fellow human rights defenders in Mindanao.

Delivering the keynote address were Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna Partylist and Rev. Barry Naylor of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) who presented his address via a video presentation from the United Kingdom. Both spoke about the increasing number of victims of extra-judicial killings and massacre of Lumad and their supporters in different parts in Mindanao. Rep. Colmenares delved on the rising political repression under the Aquino administration which is a reminiscent of his experience during the years of Martial Law. Rev. Naylor, on the other hand, expressed alarm about the rising death toll in Mindanao and the continuing state of impunity due to government’s inaction of the cases filed.

With the theme, “Strengthening and Broadening the People’s Movement for Human Rights against the Intensifying State of Impunity in Mindanao,” the conference aims to establish a broad Mindanao-wide human rights network of lawyers, churchpeople, academics, youth and students, women, child rights advocates, Lumad rights workers, Moro human rights workers, health professionals, journalists, and other human rights workers and defenders.

Barug Katungod Mindanao is also a response of human rights defenders and the people of Mindanao to demand justice from the Aquino government and resist its internal security doctrine Oplan Bayanihan which has claimed the lives of more than 60 indigenous, peasant, and environmental defenders by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police and paramilitary forces.

The human rights defenders gathering also complements with the weeklong protest rallies for the burial and wake of EMIRITO SAMARCA, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV), DIONEL CAMPOS, chairman of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sa Sumusunod or MAPASU, and his cousin Juvello Sinzo who were killed by soldiers of the 36th Infantry Battalion – Philippine Army (IBPA), the 75th IBPA, AFP 1st Special Forces and their armed paramilitary group who identified themselves as comprising the Mahagat/Bagani group on September 1 at Bgy. Diatagon, Liangga, Surigao del Sur.

Barug Katungod Mindanao notes the staggering statistics of human rights violations in Mindanao: 87 alternative Lumad schools are under various forms of military attacks, around 40,000 persons have been displaced due to militarization and terror by more than 20 government-backed paramilitary groups including the Mahagat/Bagani and Alamara groups, and more than 250 activists and community leaders facing false criminal charges as a form of political repression to the rising people’s movement in Mindanao.#

Below is the Keynote Address of Rev. Barry Naylor:

Message of Solidarity
Rev. Barry Naylor
International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines

Greetings, and an assurance of International Solidarity and support, from the Global Council of the International Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines, of which I am the Chair.

We stand alongside you in solidarity, as you long for justice and for a lasting peace, in Mindanao, that will enable all people to live alongside one another in mutual respect and dignity; a peace that will not only allow, but which will also actively encourage and enable the flourishing of each and every person to their full potential.

The seemingly never-ending reports of atrocities and slayings continue to shock and astound all decent people, who hear of them, as does the impunity, which the perpetrators of these horrors enjoy.

I visited Mindanao in 2005 as part of a Muslim Christian Peace Dialogue; I received an extremely warm welcome from many people, including representatives of InPeace Mindanao, the women of Khadijah and other residents of barangay Waan, near Davao City, where I stayed for several days. As a result of the conversations I had during this visit, I found myself barred from re-entering the country because of my ludicrously alleged close links to, and even funding from, Abu Sayyaf, Al Quaeda and Osama Bin Laden himself! Such for the integrity and truthfulness of the AFP and the accuracy of their intelligence services! After that visit, there was an International People’s Tribunal held in Manila when we found Gloria Magacapal Arroyo and George Bush guilty of crimes against humanity. We heard horrific evidence of torture, the abuse of children, the displacement of communities and extra-judicial killings. All this was ten years ago in 2005; sadly all this continues and another great catalogue of human rights abuses was laid before the recent IPT held in the USA in July of this year.

“How long, O Lord, how long?” the people cry, as the prophet Habbakuk did all those centuries ago.

How long will this continue? As I sit down to write, news has come through of the horrific and totally barbaric public executions of Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo, by members of the Magahat-Bagani Force, alongside the brutal slaying of Emerito Samarca, all closely involved in the running of the Alternative Learning Centre for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, dedicated to serving poor indigenous families and teaching them the value of the land. As happens all too often, those dedicated to serving the people and improving their lot are denounced as supporters of the NPA and, once this accusation is made, their chances of survival disappear and eradication is their fate. This is totally, utterly unjust and heinous behaviour, on the part of those whose remit is to be servants of the state, that is, servants of the people. They are the brigands, the murderers, the ones who are creating an atmosphere of fear and brutal thuggery. Emerito Samarca had recently attended the International People’s Conference on Mining held in metro-Manila, also attended by many colleagues from around the world, as well as from the Philippines. He was truly devoted to serving the people in the very best sense of the word. Literacy and Numeracy Schools run by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Sub region – have also come under attack and numerous threats. A recent online post from the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines was entitled:

“Attacks on Mindanao Lumad Schools and communities intensify as Aquino’s military goes berserk for Oplan Bayanihan”. It describes how the last year of Aquino’s administration has meant a bloodbath for indigenous peoples and for Lumad education, as he, himself, lauds advances in education, in his nationwide speeches. As schools are an integral part of communities, these attacks are an open declaration of the Philippine state’s war of annihilation against people’s organizations and communities, especially those resisting foreign large-scale plunder of ancestral domains.

The documentation for your conference outlines the data for these attacks on schools, attacks on communities, attacks on people – the horrifying statistics back up and authenticate these serious allegations, illustrating that beautiful Mindanao is, indeed, a militarized and plundered land. Our documentation states that “Oplan Bayanihan is the government’s war for plunder and war against the people” – just as the so called “War on Terror” in the earlier years of the century was, in reality, a war of terror waged against the ordinary people and the people’s representatives, those who stood in solidarity with ordinary struggling agricultural workers, fisher people, those engaged in mining and forestry– lawyers, trade unionists, priests and lay-workers, journalists who dared to report the truth and so the list continued to the shame of those in power at Malacanang.

These abuses were highlighted by the visit of the UN Rapporteur, Philip Alston and, in spite of his damning reports, nothing happened, nothing changed, no one is apprehended and brought to face justice.

Politicians come up with fine words, strut the world stage and parade their so-called democratic and religious credentials but nothing changes – the perpetrators of crimes still go unpunished. Where is the Butcher of Mindoro, where is Palparan? Shielded by his cronies in the AFP and continuing to evade justice. All the time, actions speak louder than words. The actions from Malacanang speak of an administration that disrespects the people, whose prime duty it is to serve and protect, especially those people who might appear, in any way, to threaten the interests of its capitalist cronies and imperialist masters, whose main desire is to use and to bleed the country for their own financial and political purposes.

I remember when, in 2005, I visited the barangay of Cancaiyas in Samar and spoke to a group of people, gathered on a hillside outside their local school. We were overlooked by a group of AFP soldiers with their weapons and, even, infiltrated by one of their members in disguise taking photographs, before he was removed. I asked then what was the most important thing that we, as international observers, could do. The response was “tell people throughout the world what is happening here”; let them know of the torture, the disappearances, the forced removals, the slayings, the stripping of the forests and exploitation of the mines etc etc etc. That is one of the things I, and my fellow members of the International Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines will continue to do. We will use every means possible to ensure the world knows what is going on here and to educate those people who know little of the realities of life in the Philippines. Furthermore, we will do all we can to ensure that that knowledge leads to action – representations to politicians, campaigns in the social media, a range of profile-raising activities and so on.

From 22nd November – 10th December we are calling for Global Action for Mindanao, campaigning against the intensified US-Aquino regime’s attacks on the Filipino people.

We are urging international supporters and comrades to do all they can to highlight both the intensifying attacks of the US-Aquino regime on the one hand and, on the other, the heroic struggles of the people in Mindanao, including the Lumad and Moro peoples. We urge this to be done through online media, articles and interviews. We are, further, urging people to conduct lobby and advocacy actions highlighting recent and current atrocities with their respective governments, all over the world. We are seeking to mobilize migrants and Overseas Workers to organize and educate compatriots and supporters, so they can play a leading role in this campaign. We are organising a solidarity tour conducted by Filipino activists, indigenous peoples and human rights defenders to cover various nations in Europe, during the months of November and December and we will encourage similar tours in other parts of the world. These abuses will be especially highlighted with activities round 10th December – International Human Rights Day.

As the people of Mindanao endure these outrages, inflicted by agents of your own Government, and their allies, who act with impunity, be assured you do not stand alone. There are brothers, sisters, friends, comrades throughout the world, who are striving to ensure that the weight of world opinion is brought to bear on Aquino, that the whole culture of impunity will cease, the guilty will be apprehended and punished and the children, the men and women, of all communities in Mindanao, and throughout the Philippines, will be able to live together in peace, in freedom, in dignity. There are people all over the world committed to standing with you in your heroic struggles and we will do all we can to ensure that the world does know and does respond. I promise you, we will be untiring in our efforts to do this

We may cry “How long, O Lord?” but be assured the day will come when you will be free and all the peoples will enjoy the blessings of that freedom.

So many are standing in solidarity with you throughout the world. You are not alone and our solidarity will be your victory.