On October 27, six armed men set on fire a corn sheller and a school at Kabulohan, Barangay Buhisan, San Agustin, Surigao del Sur. The corn sheller was a donation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to the community. The men also set on fire to a UNICEF tarpaulin with a sign, “All schools are peace zones. Don’t use it as command post, detachment and supply depots. RA 7610 Protection of the Rights of Children”.
The residents tried to put out the fire but the men indiscriminately fired their guns, causing the people to scramble for safety. One of the school’s teachers Josephine Trimidal, who is eight months pregnant, and her husband jumped from their house to avoid the bullets. The teachers living in the teachers’ cottage, Julieto and Melanie Trimidal and their one-year old son, also jumped from the cottage and ran towards the nearby river.
“The incident is among the many cases of atrocities in the course of the combat operations by the joint forces of the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion under Lt. Col. Jesus Durante, 36th Infantry Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Battalion, 401st Brigade, elements of (paramilitary) CAFGU, and the paramilitary group of Calpit Egua, and Marcos Bocales, former leader of Task Force Gantangan, a remnant of Gloria Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.
The series of events since first week of October led some 378 families or close to 1,800 individuals from 16 Lumad communities in Surigao del Sur to leave their homes and fields on October 27, and are now at the Diatagon Barangay Gym. At least 10 community schools and learning centers suspended classes affecting almost 900 pupils. The military also ransacked a community cooperative school.
There are already two victims of extrajudicial killings and two cases of enforced disappearances. Henry Sarsona Alameda, MAPASU council member and Aldren Dumaguit were killed on October 24, while Jojo Tejero and Elde Martinez are reported missing. They were last seen on October 23. Six other civilians were victims of frustrated killing.
The military operation is under the 4th Infantry Division now headed by Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya’s successor, Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao. Gen. Visaya is Gen. Palparan’s protégé, while Gen. Lactao promised to pursue what Visaya started with the 4th Infantry Division. Expectedly, “we see a rise in human rights violations and destruction of people-initiated projects such as the schools, cooperatives, and other community efforts to improve their lives,” Palabay added.
The 22 communities of MAPASU have been targets of massive military operations for years, and gross violations of human rights were committed in the course of such operations. In 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011, massive military operations forced the community members to evacuate.
In a command conference of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Oplan Bayanihan, AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang announced the deployment of two more army brigades to Mindanao. Before this, there are already — at least — 55 combat battalions operating in areas considered as New People’s Army strongholds.
Cristina “Tinay” Palabay
PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
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#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.