“The whitewash, cover up and lies of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Malacañang and the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) on the recruitment of Lumad in the military and Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), nevermind if they are conflicting, are directed to one thing—to shield the BS Aquino government from accountability on the Lumad killings,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.
Palabay explained, “the CHR deliberately turned a blind eye on the real issue of the Lumad—that they are targets of the Philippine government’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which resulted in the extrajucidial killings, forced evacuations, and attacks on schools, among others.”
“The CHR’s assertion that the perpetrators of rights violations are both the state and non-state actors washes off the regime’s accountability for the widespread violations among the Lumad. Remember, it is the Philippine Army troops and its paramilitary which caused thousands of Lumad to evacuate their homes because of the killings, bombardment of communities and forced recruitment into the paramilitary groups,” she added.
“Malacañang, through its spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, also dished out another lie by saying the AFP is not recruiting Lumad. “The Palace was actually being careful not to implicate the Commander-in-Chief in the series of human rights violations against the Lumad through Oplan Bayanihan, a program steered and implemented by the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace and the AFP,” Palabay said.
“The AFP, feigning innocence for the nth time while contradicting the Palace, admitted otherwise. Using the ‘equal opportunity’ card, the AFP admitted recruiting Lumad, but was quick to deny any involvement in the killings. What the AFP didn’t admit is the forcible recruitment of Lumad into the AFP-backed paramilitary groups and in the Barangay Defense System, appropriating unto itself the ‘traditional Lumad defense system’ and bastardizing the very concept of it,” she stated.
At the plenary deliberations on the proposed national budget at the House of Representatives on October, the Department of National Defense admitted that more than half of the CAFGU or about 30,735 are in Mindanao. Karapatan said many of these CAFGU are recruited, forcibly or with promises of privileges, by the AFP.
Karapatan cited the cases of forced recruitment in Talaingod, Davao del Norte. On March 8, five members of Alamara and 30 soldiers of 68th Infantry Battalion interrogated and accused 30 year old Datu Sumpo Taosan of being a commander of the NPA. They told him to surrender and to join the Alamara paramilitary group or his tribe will be hunted down. On the same day, more than 20 armed men from the 68th IBPA arrived in Sitio Nasilaban, Brgy. Palma Gil, Talaingod and summoned Awing Apoga for questioning. A certain ‘Cabagnan’ told him to join the Alamara and to persuade his father Datu Guibang to surrender. Datu Gibang is a staunch defender of the tribe’s ancestral lands. Awing politely declined. After the incident, Awing joined the hundreds of Talaingod residents who evacuated to Davao City.
Also in Brgy. White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon, Brgy. Captain Felipe Cabugnason, acting on orders of the military, summoned all male residents in his community on September 7. The male residents were forcibly recruited into the Barangay Defense System and were compelled to serve as night guards for the 8th and 23rd IB encamped at the barangay hall supposedly to repel ‘NPA attacks’. Despite the residents’ opposition—saying they do not want to become pawns against the NPA—the military insisted.The military argued that those who will miss their duty as guards will be considered NPA members and will face arrest. The residents were also instructed to collect among those on duty Php 5 for coffee.
“We don’t have to ask which of these government agency is the better liar. It is obvious, all the deception, excuses and lies are to protect the State security forces responsible for the rights violations and Aquino as the Commander-in-Chief,” Palabay said.
Karapatan reiterated its support for the Lumad’s call to pull out army troops from indigenous people’s communities and disband paramilitary groups.
Cristina “Tinay” Palabay
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
[email protected] <[email protected]>
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
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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. It was established in 1995.