26 February 2018
The International Coalition on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP), a global network of solidarity groups, organizations and rights advocates outside the Philippines, today released its findings on the impact of martial law on human and people’s rights in the Philippines, after its International Solidarity Mission (ISM) in a total of four regions in Mindanao from February 18 to 25, 2018.
“First and foremost, we deplore the cases of harassment and threats faced by international human rights monitors of the ICHRP during the course of the ISM in Mindanao. We believe that peoples, activists and human rights defenders from outside the Philippines have the right to extend international solidarity to the individuals, groups and communities in the Philippines facing various attacks and threats to their political, civil, social and economic rights. We also believe that these harassment and threats are sorry attempts by the Duterte administration and its State agents to cover-up the real situation in the Philippines,” said Peter Murphy, an Australian activist and Chairperson of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP).
On February 22, ISM delegates, including five foreign human rights observers, were on their way to General Santos City, when they were held at a police-manned checkpoint at Brgy. Palian, Tupi, South Cotabato. All participants were ordered to show their identification cards, including that of the five foreign rights advocates. The IDs issued by the Bureau of Immigration for two foreign church workers of the United Methodist Church were confiscated by police. They were all then escorted to Bureau of Immigration Region 12 field office in General Santos City reportedly for “verification.” Police personnel who accosted the mission delegates did not present any written document to specify reasons for their actions. They were released from police custody after negotiations.
Also, on February 19, other participants to the said mission were denied entry to the Lumad communities in Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur by soldiers from the 75th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army. The ten mission delegates, five of whom are internationals, were accompanied by Lianga councilor Sammy Dollano and Friends of the Lumad in Caraga chairperson Bishop Modesto Villasanta. Further, on February 21, a government appointed “tribal chieftain”, accompanied by military in civilian clothes, entered the community of Hayon to warn the group that they did not ask for his permission to be there. After leaving the community, the delegation was stopped at two different military checkpoints, and in the last one, even held for over two hours.
The ISM delegates released the following (initial) findings based on their factfinding missions in Caraga, SocSKSargends, Northern Mindanao region and Southern Mindanao region:
1. Military operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the Caraga region, even exacerbated after the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, have endangered the lives, livelihood and rights of poor peasants asserting their right to own the land they till, of indigenous people’s communities, causing forcible evacuation of Lumad communities resisting the entry of destructive mining and other businesses in the region. Students and teachers of alternative learning institutions are also in peril, because of pronouncements by Duterte himself and his military that these schools are training grounds of the New People’s Army (NPA) and, thus, should be bombed. Peasant and indigenous people’s leaders, Lumad school teachers and other human rights defenders face trumped up criminal charges which were initiated by the military, police and the Department of Justice to harass and malign defenders, in an attempt to silence them into passivity. [Refer also to the 2018 Feb 23 ISM Caraga statement]
2. The Armed Forces of the Philippines, in cahoots in foreign and local big businesses, have instigated a brutal war against indigenous people’s communities in the SocSKSargends region, which resulted in the massacre of eight Lumad leaders in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Efforts to provide free and relevant education through alternative learning institutions put up by indigenous peoples such as the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services, Inc. are being frustrated by repeated attempts to criminalise these institution’s teachers such as Jolita Tolino, who was illegally arrested on February 8, 2018, and Pastor Kama Sanong, an officer of the Parent-Teacher-Community Association of CLANS who was arrested on July 11, 2017.
3. The delegation to the Northern Mindanao region visited Marawi City evacuees in Iligan City, Saguiaran and just inside the northern boundary of Marawi City. They found the evacuees highly stressed and agitated because relief goods from the Dept of Social Welfare and Development had been cut of in mid-January in Iligan City, and sharply reduced in Saguiaran and Marawi City itself. Evacuees in Iligan City have been ordered to leave the city by February 28, by the Mayor but have no indication about where they may be re-located. In fact, they all wish to return to their areas in Marawi City and start again with whatever resources they have, but realise that this is unlikely. Evacuees in Saguiaran Municipality have also been told that they must re-locate in March, but also have no information about where. A new site, dubbed a Temporary Evacuation Centre, is being constructed at the edge of the Marawi City area, composed of several hundred small bunkhouses, set on concrete slabs and serviced with sealed roads and a sewerage system. It appears anything but temporary. Evacuees continue to say guardedly that they will not tolerate the grabbing of huge parts of the urban area of Marawi City, and hint that President Duterte will face a bigger conflict there. They view Martial Law as a device to block their return to Marawi City and call for it to be abolished.
4. The ISM delegates from the different regions converged in Davao City to attend the Human Rights Summit on February 23. They were supposed to visit communities at Compostela Valley where human rights violations are so rampant. However, reports reached the organizers that the community members were called by the AFP nearest battalion telling the people to “clear their names”. They advised against the mission going to their areas and just agreed to send some families to meet with the delegation. They were eventually able to meet with the missioners the day after, even as they expressed fears that their movements were being monitored by the AFP. Peasant organizers are subject to the “crackdown/lockdown” of the martial law, and as widely known are frequent targets of EJKs, trumped up charges among other grave human rights violations. It has been learned that several families from Talaingod and other communities in Compostela Valley are evacuating because of hamletting and threats. There are around 60 families of Lumads who are now in the Sanctuary area, and still counting. This is due to the massive militarization happening in their ancestral lands prohibiting them to go their farms.
“Aside from State policies regarding martial law and Oplan Kapayapaan, Pres. Duterte’s pronouncements clearly incite his State forces to commit human rights violations and war crimes, including his orders to shoot female rebels in their vaginas. His proscription of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist organizations bode ill for the peace process between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Clearly, he is fomenting war and unpeace against his own people,” said Julie Jamora, a US-based rights activist and member of Gabriela-USA.
ICHRP, together with Ibon International, also launched a booklet entitled ”Duterte Killings Continue: State Terror and Human Rights in the Philippines.”
“With this publication and the facts we gathered in this recent ISM, we plan to bring our observations and recommendations to the parliaments and governments of different countries such as Australia, the US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and European member states like Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, among others. We call on peoples from various countries to pressure their governments to withdraw State funding for military operations in the Philippines. We should never be a party to the slaughter of and other human rights violations against the Filipino people,” Murphy emphasized.
Murphy also announced plans of the coalition to initiate an International Peoples’ Tribunal, which will hold to account Pres. Duterte on people’s rights violations in the Philippines.
“International solidarity is the response of oppressed peoples and advocates of just and lasting peace to fascist and authoritarian regimes like Duterte’s. We will not relent in our consistent support for the campaigns of the Filipino people for human and people’s rights in the Philippines and elsewhere,” Murphy concluded. ###
View short video here: https://vimeo.com/ichrp
Chairperson, Global Council
International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP)
Mobile: +61 418312301