This is the statement issued by the five international delegates after they participated in the International Solidarity Mission (Caraga Leg). They are from Australia, Malawi, Philippines and USA.
The ISM was held on 18 – 22 February 2018 and they visited peasant communities in Tubay, Agusan del Norte and Lumad communities in Surigao del Sur.
In the 2018 International Solidarity Mission (ISM), human rights and peace advocates, and representatives from various international organizations came together to listen and witness firsthand the struggles of different sectors in Mindanao under Martial Law so that they can share these findings with their respective networks and amplify the calls for just and lasting peace.
On February 19, our delegation was refused entry to the Lumad communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur by the 75th Infantry Battalion, and again on the morning of February 21, a government-appointed “tribal chieftain”, accompanied by military in civilian clothes, entered the community of Hayon to notify our group that we did not ask his permission to be there. After leaving the community, we were stopped at two different military checkpoints, and in the last one, we were held for over two hours. We were later escorted to the Tago Police Station for verification of identities.
We, the delegates of the ISM in Caraga, condemn the harassment of International Solidarity Mission delegates in an attempt by the Duterte administration to cover up human right violations in the country. We express our full support to the peasant and Lumad communities in the region struggling for their fundamental rights to land and education, despite these detrimental conditions.
Despite being the food producers of the country, most of the peasants in the Philippines still do not own the land they till nor are their basic rights protected on that land. Military and police have become private armies of big landlords who refuse to break their monopoly on land.
Leaders of peasant organizations such as the Unyon ng Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte (UMAN), as well as peasants unaffiliated to any organizations, face cases of trumped-up charges, illegal arrests, and death threats. These instances lead to enormous legal fees, imprisoned parents, orphaned children and displaced communities.
At the Tubay Agricultural Processing Center (TAPCEN) in Agusan del Norte, we learned that 410 hectares of land were already set for distribution by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) but JCADI was able to use the loophole of “developing” agrarian land to a processing zone to retain their ownership. Peasants were charged of illegal entry and theft for occupying and cultivating idle land that was left undeveloped even after the given timeframe of 5 years.
In our visit to the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao Del Sur (TRIFPSS) primary school in Hayon, we learned about how Lumad schools, TRIFPSS and the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) built by the Manobo tribal council, Persevering the Struggle for the Next Generation (MAPASU) teach sustainable organic agriculture to ensure food security for the communities. They teach basic literacy, math, and other subjects found in Department of Education, but in a culturally relevant manner. The schools unite the tribe and empower students to protect their ancestral lands against the violent threat of mining, logging, and industrial agriculture.
We learned about the death threats, trumped-up charges, sexual harassment, and interrogations by the 75th Infantry Battalion against TRIFPSS and ALCADEV staff, students, and families. The schools have been accused by the government of being training grounds of the New People’s Army (NPA). Teachers are accused of teaching students subversion and assembling arms in attempt to justify the violence against them.
With this, we invite the international community to stand in solidarity with the peoples of Mindanao in the following calls to action:
End Martial Law! We call on Pres. Duterte to immediately lift martial law in Mindanao as it is weaponized to cover up the human rights violations committed against the poor and marginalized. We also demand that military and paramilitary troops be pulled out of peasant and indigenous communities so that the victims of forced evacuations can live peacefully on their rightful lands!
Stop Lumad and peasant killings! Free all political prisoners! We demand justice for all the victims of extrajudicial killings and accountability from the government who, as duty-bearers, have tolerated such atrocities from its military and demand that the state respect the international humanitarian law.
Save our schools! We denounce the efforts of the government to discredit the Lumad schools by criminalizing the students, teachers, and staff! We demand the pull-out of all AFP and CAFGU soldiers on Lumad lands! We call on the government to honor the right to culturally relevant education!
Resume peace talks! To achieve genuine peace, the roots of the conflict must be addressed. Peace Talks are one of the avenues to discuss the issues of the different sectors who are victimized by the Duterte Administration’s brutal wars against drugs, terror, and counterinsurgency.#