June 25, 2019
Reference: Cristina Palabay, Secretary General, +639173162831
Karapatan Public Information Desk, +639189790580
Karapatan hits forcible eviction, filing of trumped-up charges against peasants, IPs along Isabela-Divilacan road
Human rights group Karapatan vehemently condemned the series of eviction efforts committed by the members of the Isabela Environment Task Force against the 55 families of peasants and indigenous peoples in Sitio Laguis, Brgy. Syndon Bayabo, Ilagan City in Isabela province.
According to initial reports, since May 29 to present, military and cops, members of the Environment and Natural Resources Offices, the Provincial Engineering Department, and the Local Government Unit of Isabela, forcibly asked the settlers to leave, demolished their houses and destroyed their farmlands.
“This is outrageous and unacceptable. Some of the settlers in Sitio Laguis have been residing there for ten to 38 years now. The local government’s move to displace the residents will severely impact on the poor. It is lamentable the residents who helped the government in its programs for the environment are now being displaced,” said Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of Karapatan.
The demolition and forced eviction of the settlers stem out from the ongoing construction of the Ilagan-Divilacan Road – a project which cost the provincial government a P2.28 billion loan. It can be recalled that the infrastructure project pushed through in 2012 despite the opposition of various groups, including the residents themselves who have been excluded during the public hearings.
“On May 24, an emergency meeting at the provincial capitol was convened because of the result of the Aerial Surveillance Operation at the Ilagan-Divilacan Road, the discovered damage at the Reforestation Project, and the number of houses seen inside the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, but at the end of the meeting, a decision to demolish the settlements was released and was implemented on May 29,” Palabay added.
“The demolition is illegal in the first place. It was observed that it has been conducted even without the necessary requirements such as a court order, a 30-day notice, the presence of local government officials, and a proposed relocation site. The provincial government cited various reasons to defend their move, but if not baseless, all of their explanations were in contradiction with existing guidelines.” she said.
Police power vs peasants, IPs
Aside from the demolition of houses and the destruction of farmlands, the government also used police force to threaten the settlers by filing trumped-up charges against them.
“On June 18, ten members of the Isabela police arrested 50-year-old farmer Ricardo Gamino for alleged ‘kaingin’ inside the protected area. The following day, June 19, a certain Ramon Mabbayad was also arrested for squatting or illegal settlement. On June 20, five other residents were also arrested for illegal occupancy,” the official said.
The arrests are among the latest violations in a string of threats committed by the Isabela government and its uniformed men against the peasants and indigenous people in the province. According to reports, officials are planning to arrest another 47 residents for the same charges.
“This is what happens when the government promotes intimidation and violence as a way to realize their aspirations. It can be noted that President Rodrigo Duterte used this very way to silence activists and critics who are resisting against his anti-people policies. What happened to the residents of Sitio Laguis can also happen to anyone if we will let this culture thrive in our midst,” Palabay concluded.
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.