Findings/Highlights of the ISM 2017


by Peter Murphy

Chairperson, International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines

November 24, 2017

The gravity of the human rights situation we came to witness is underlined by the news received last night that the fifth farmers leader in Caraga was murdered yesterday morning. His name is Vivencio Sahay, the Chairperson the 1st Barangay organisation of KMP in Agusan Norte. Unknown gunmen entered his house at 6am and shot him dead.

1. Marawi City evacuees

We visited evacuees from the Marawi City catastrophe at three locations over two days. They want to be allowed to return immediately to their former homes in Marawi City to start to rebuild their lives and their city. They want compensation for lost property and income, but will not wait for this to return. Marawi City citizens should be fully involved in any decisions to rebuild the city, to avoid the obvious danger of a big urban land grab by big developers connected to the government.

2. Bukidnon

Manobo people in Bukidnon are pressing their claims for Ancestral Domain title, through holding a kampuhan on the highway, and by a community cultivating former sugar lands which they succeeded in getting back from the Busco Sugar Mills about 20 years ago. Their organisation is called TINDOGA. These communities are under intense pressure from the landlords. The day after our visit the community was raided by 30 Blue Guards seeking out the Datu, but fortunately they could not find him.

3. ARBs at Tagum City, Davao del Norte

These Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries are asserting long-standing claims to land at a kampuhan outside the Provincial Dept of Agrarian Reform and also outside the DAR office in Manila.

Their claims have been frustrated for 25 years by companies like Lapanday, Tadeco and other powerful landlord interests who continue to defy direct court orders for the ARBs to be installed on their land. The ARBS have been victimized by these landlords throughout these decades for asserting their rights under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

4. Political Prisoners

We visited 4 political prisoners held at the Rehabilitation Centre at Davao del Norte, including Amelia Pond, the Administrator of the Lumad Schools program. She continues to be held on ludicrous murder charges after more than one year. It is obvious that she is in detention as part of the outrageous repression of the Lumad Schools. Amelia and the other civilian peasant leaders held on trumped up charges should be released immediately.

5. Lumad Schools

Our Mission also visited two Misfi Lumad school sites at Banga and Kisante, in South Cotobato. Talking to the students, teachers and barangay officials, our delegates could see the great hope embodied in these remote Lumad schools, and also the malicious repression of these schools by the military. This repression is an international scandal.

6. Repression and Plunder

Because the Mission had no time to travel to Soksargends and to Caraga, their community leaders came to Davao City to brief us. A very alarming picture emerged of intense surveillance of Lumad and Peasant leaders, creating data which is then used to organize raids on homes, planting of fake evidence, laying of trumped up charges, and also EJKs.

The repression of these communities is motivated by land-grabbing corporations run by rich landlord families and foreign mining corporations.

These extractive industries now really threaten the Pantaron Range and its great river, and all the ancestral domain cared for properly by the Lumad tribes for thousands of years.

7. Conclusions

I conclude by expressing alarm at the recent Australian government commitment of Special Forces to Mindanao as part of the mis-named war on terror.

In fact there is an ongoing war we have witnessed in Mindanao against the Bangsamoro People, the Lumads and the Peasants.

In Australia, fascism is not popular and we will actively campaign against all military assistance to a President who brags that he is a fascist.

Instead we call for a genuine re-engagement of the Philippines government in the Peace Talks with the National Democratic Front, and for a proper conclusion to the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

This is the best way to address the deep roots of social conflict in the Philippines and the international community should strongly support the Royal Norwegian Government in its long standing facilitation of these peace talks.

For ourselves at the ICHRP, we are already committed to larger solidarity missions in 2018, because of the great urgency of the situation we have witnessed.#

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