They have come to tell their stories on how the Armed Forces of the Philippines sow terror in their communities. On the third day of the Manilakbayan contingent in Metro Manila, they already experienced how the Philippine National Police used force to drive them away and to protect the US Embassy.
On November 24, the Manilakbayan contingent with hundred others from Southern Tagalog marched from Baclaran Church to US Embassy. The mostly peasants, indigenous peoples and Moro delegates from Mindanao condemned the continued and increasing presence of US troops in the country. However, the police hit them with rattan truncheons that hurt the protesters. Joseph Alicabo, a worker from the Toyota Motors Philippines was hit on the head and was wounded.
Mindanao has been hosting Balikatan military exercises since the Visiting Forces Agreement was approved in 1999. Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general cited several cases of human rights violations that Karapatan documented since then. Among them were the killing of Buyong-buyong Isnijal in 2002 and the “mysterious” death of Gregan Cardeño in 2010.
“The incident at the US Embassy may be minor compared to the massive militarization of peasant and indigenous people’s communities in Mindanao. But it showed the Manilakbayan contingent that anywhere in the country, those who avow to serve and protect the Filipino people are actually protecting the interests of the US government; that the BS Aquino government does not give an inch to protesters and is always ready to use of force against them,” Palabay said.
More than half of the AFP’s total armed strength is currently deployed in Mindanao. “There are at least 55 battalions sowing terror in Mindanao, displacing peasants and indigenous peoples, encamped in Lumad schools, harassing, and even killing the people,” she added.
The Manilakbayan contingent is set to hold a protest action at the Department of National Defense tomorrow, November 26 to call the public’s attention to the abuses and rights violations of BS Aquino’s AFP. Already there are 83 documented cases of extrajudicial killings, 500 activists facing trumped up criminal charges, and 39 incidents of forcible evacuation.
Yesterday, after the march to the US Embassy, the Manilakbayan and Southern Tagalog contingent with other Metro Manila-based people’s organizations, held a rally at Mendiola. Lumad rituals to show their condemnation of the BS Aquino regime and to strengthen people’s unity were conducted. Lumad leaders also made ‘kudaw’ a strand of rattan with five knots to signify the number of days they are giving BS Aquino to heed the demands of the people of Mindanao. November 29 is BS Aquino’s deadline.
The Manilakbayan ng Mindanao contingent will be in Manila until December 10, where they will join in the commemoration of the International Day of Human Rights.
Cristina “Tinay” Palabay
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Building
#1 Maaralin corner Matatag Streets
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.