Katungod Lumad Alert:

Military men harass Higaonon family in Buenavista, Agusan Norte

A Higaonon family was harassed by members of the 23rd Infantry Battalion (IB) in a military operation in Sitio Bulak, Brgy. Olave, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte on May 21, 2016.

At around one o’clock that afternoon, the military passed by a Higaonon known as ‘Balud’ who was gathering firewood. They asked him to guide them to the center of Bulak. However, even before they reached the center, Balud ran from fear of what else the military will have him do or will do to him once their operation is done. The military, who chased him, came upon the home of Circle Binungkasan, and barged into it. They asked Circle and his wife, Magdalena, who else was there with them. Circle, shocked at the arrival of the fully-armed military could only answer that they were all civilians there.

Upon hearing this, one military attempted to hit Circle and his wife with his M203 grenade launcher. Circle managed to grab his wife and his two-year old child and they ran out of the house. No sooner than Circle and his family exited their house that the soldiers opened fire, destroying their house and killing their pets and some poultry.

Some distance away, Circle turned to check on his wife, and saw that she was hit by shrapnel on her head, breast and thigh. She was rushed the nearest hospital for immediate rescue and treatment.

Upon checking their house, Circle saw that their meager possessions were ransacked, and the cellphone and 4Ps card of his wife were missing. He also learned that the military asked around the community looking for them. The military stayed on for eight more hours and left at around 1:00 AM.

The incident was a continuation of military harassments that started on April 28 after an armed encounter between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the New People’s Army took place in Sitio Kalaitan near Bulak. On May 6, the military bombed the nearby areas twice even if there was no return fire from the rebel group. This caused the communities to halt their daily activities, preparing to leave their homes once more. They had already evacuated when a similar military operation took place in March this year.

The presence of the 23rd IB in Sitio Bulak not only caused fear and panic among the community members, but further disrupted the economic, cultural, and political activities of the indigenous community. This is an outright violation to their right to development, all activities halted whenever there is a military operation in their ancestral domain. Not only are they not able to go to their farms or to the forests but their possessions are also destroyed by the military who do not even ask for their permission for the said military operations. According to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, military activities – even mere ‘roving’ – will need to have consent from the indigenous peoples who have the right to self-governance and self-determination over their own lands.

To this day, the Higaonon community of Sitio Bulak still living in fear and panic caused by the unjustified and arbitrary presence of the 23rd IB in their area. Fearing for their lives and their safety, the locals are held back from continuing their livelihood activities, cultural practices and socio-political engagements.

EXPRESS YOUR CONCERN

to the Philippine Government by writing to:

H.E. Benigno S. Aquino III

President of the Republic of the Philippines

E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph / opnet@ops.gov.ph

Hon. Alfredo Benjamin Sabater Caguioa

Secretary, Department of Justice

Email: info@doj.gov.ph; communications@doj.gov.ph

Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon

Chairperson, Commission On Human Rights

E-mail: chairgascon.chr@gmail.com

Atty. Leonor T. Oralde-Quintayo

Chairperson, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples

Email: chairpersonsoffice@gmail.com

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III

Chair, Justice and Human Rights Committee

Philippine Senate

E-mail: kokopimenteloffice@yahoo.com

Hon. Ma. Angelica Rosedell M. Amante-Matba

Governor, Province of Agusan del Norte

E-mail: pgo@agusandelnorte.gov.ph

Hon. Norbert B. Pagaspas

Mayor, Municipality of Buenavista

E-mail: lgubuenavista8601@yahoo.com.ph

Copy furnish your letters to info@rmp-nmr.org

For more information, contact us at:

Higala sa Lumad Network

Room 01, Kalinaw Lanao Center for Interfaith Resources

0016 Bougainvilla Puti, Villaverde

9200 Iligan City, Philippines

T/F: +63 (63) 223 5179

E: info@rmp-nmr.org

Katungod Lumad Alert is published by the ‘Higala sa Lumad’ [Friends of the Lumad] Network.

‘Higala sa Lumad’ Network is a support group composed of a broad range of interfaith personalities/representative of organizations synergizing relevant capacities and resources for Lumad communities under attack. ‘Higala’ also serves as an informal monitoring network for Lumad human rights. ‘Higala’ has been established as a component of the ‘Healing the Hurt’ Project.