Oplan Bayanihan is violation and destruction against the Cordillera Peoples

The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance strongly condemns the air strike and strafing that took place yesterday, 31 August 2013, in Sagada, Mountain Province.  This is the second incident in the Cordillera region within the year.  The first took place in Malibcong, Abra on 31 May which caused psychological and emotional stress on the community people especially on the two children who almost got hurt.

The airstrike and strafing in Sagada started at around 8:00 in the morning and continued up to mid-afternoon yesterday as part of the Philippine National Police-led pursuit operations against members of the New People’s Army (NPA) which was coordinated with the Philippine Air Force.

This took place within the Demang mountain ranges.  The incident has affected the municipalities of Sagada, Besao, Sadanga and Bontoc in Mountain Province and Tubo, Abra.  The main affected tribes of the bombings and strafing are the Fidelisan, Dallic and Bontoc tribes.  The said area covers the communal hunting grounds, forest area, coffee and swidden farm and watershed of the five municipalities.

Two helicopters were used and an undetermined number of ground troops composed mainly of elements from the Philippine National Police.

There are reports as well that elements of the 50th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, headed by Col. Sibayan, encamped at the Aguid elementary school and the nearby covered court.

Currently, the damages and impact from the bombings are still being assessed.  Data is still being gathered if there were civilians directly affected by the air strikes.

Police Supt. Davy Vicente Limmong, spokesperson of the Philippine National Police (PNP) – Cordillera Administrative Region was quick to say that there was no collateral damage in the attack, saying that no one lives in the area aside from the NPA rebels.

The air strike and operations have left the affected communities reeling in fear and have put their daily livelihood activities on hold.

We strongly remind the State security forces of the International Humanitarian Law provision underscoring that parties to an armed conflict should refrain from harming civilians and their properties.  The air strike and strafing in Sagada, Mt. Province has affected the livelihood source of the people — the forest, water sources and farms.  The security of the people as well was endangered with their manner of operations.  They should be held accountable for the impact and damages on the people.

The airstrikes and counter-insurgency operations are part of the Aquino government’s Operation Plan Bayanihan. It has been called as a peace and development policy by the government but the people who suffer from it, refer to the policy as “panaglabsing ken didigra” (violation and destruction) policy.  It is doubly enraging that the citizen’s hard-earned taxes are being used by the State against us.  It should immediately be scrapped.

We ask all peace advocates to be in solidarity with the affected communities — to condemn the incident, demand that airstrikes should never be used in operations and for human rights and international humanitarian laws to be fully respected.  The armed conflict will not be solved with bombs and bullets.  The roots of the armed conflict should be addressed and the peace talks should be resumed immediately.

For reference:
Jude Baggo
Secretary General
Cordillera Human Rights Alliance
Mobile number:  09189199007

cordillera human rights alliance
55 ferguson road,baguio city, philippines
telefax: +63. 74. 443. 7159
telephone:  +63 74 304 4239
cp:  +63 918 919 9007
email: [email protected]

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