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    Peace For Life: On state terror attacks on Lumad schools, communities, people

    Exactly a year ago, the People’s Forum on Peace for Life,  had gathered in Mindanao, in the city of Davao, to celebrate its 10-year anniversary as having been the most consistent, vocal, and principled global interfaith movement against Empire and all of the unjust systems of hierarchy and oppression that exist in a world wherein predatory corporate capitalism reigns supreme.  In affirmation of our solidarity with and support for the struggle for dignity, rights, and justice of the Moro people and Lumads in Mindanao,  whose 700-strong participants to its Manilakbayan 2015  are presently encamped at the University of the Philippines  to press for a stop to Lumad killings and the attacks on their schools, communities and peoples,  call on the Aquino government to abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the major human rights instruments that the Philippine government is a party and signatory to and to immediately allow the requests of the UN and other international monitors to investigate human rights abuses in the Philippines;

    As people of faith and conscience, we reiterate the call of the local and international community to:

    1. Immediately pull-out the 36th Infantry Battalion in Lumad communities in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, and dismantle the paramilitary group Magahat/Bagani Forces.
    2. Immediately form an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights to look into these incidents of human rights violations; and, to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators.
    3. Dismantle the counterinsurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, which has been linked to extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, trumped up charges, tortures, massacres, and displacement of thousands of individuals.
    4. For the US government to stop military aid to the Philippine Armed Forces or conditions all aid that ensure war crimes are not perpetuated.
    5. Resume the formal peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in order to address the root causes of armed conflict in Mindanao and the rest of the country for a just and lasting peace.

    Peace for Life strongly condemns  the killings, massive forced dislocations, harassment, threats, occupation and closing of schools in Lumad tribal communities in Mindanao over the past month at the hands of the Philippine Military and paramilitary forces under their control. We are deeply enraged by the atrocious killing of Dionel Campos, Bello Sinzo, and Emerito Samarca, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV)—an indigenous school which just won the National Literacy Award in 2014 from the Department of Education. We are shocked  that Mr. Samarca was taken by force by paramilitary group Magahat, hogtied, and eventually murdered with an ear-to-ear slit on the throat and gunshot wounds in the chest in one of the school’s classrooms.  The gruesome crime,  according to report, took place inside the Alcadev compound in sitio Hanayan, Brgy. Diatagon, Liang-ga town in Surigao Del Sur on September 1, 2015.

    Two days prior to this incident, the paramilitary group burned down the school cooperative and threatened to massacre the entire community if they did not leave. Over 3,000 individuals evacuated to nearby municipalities. These are only few examples of recent  atrocities  and violation of the rights and dignity occurring in Lumad communities during the past several months.

    It will be recalled that from July 16-18, 2015, the PfL  served as a co-endorser  of the International Peoples’ Tribunal on the Crimes of the U.S.-Aquino Regime against the Filipino people, held in Washington D.C., in which the Aquino administration in cahoots with the Obama government were found  guilty of gross human rights atrocities in the form of violations of economic and social rights, political and civil rights, and the right to self-determination and liberation. We are appalled that those crimes are continuing not only in violation of the rights of children and peoples to access to education but  amounting  to crimes against humanity.

    Calls for an end to the killings and investigation and prosecution of those military forces involved have recently come from the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, The Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, the Benedictine Nuns of St. Scholastica College, Philippine legislators,  Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Northern Mindanao, and international human rights organizations. The Provincial Governor Johnny Pimental of Surigao del Sur has called for the disbandment of paramilitary forces days after the killings. In a pastoral letter of July 25, 2015 the United Church of Christ Philippines called on all churches to “denounce the ongoing militarization and human rights violations in indigenous peoples communities and to strengthen inter-faith and tribal peoples efforts to build unity, justice, and peace”.

    This past July, the Dr. Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, published a statement that summarized his findings on his visit to the Philippines, July 21-31, 2015, with these words:  ” It was striking to me that indigenous peoples have been particularly vulnerable to conflict-induced displacement in many regions, particularly in Mindanao. Displacement, whether due to conflict or development, not only destroys the homes and livelihoods of indigenous peoples, but has an incalculable impact on their cultures and ways of life that are part of the rich and diverse heritage of the Philippines that must be protected or otherwise  lost, perhaps forever.”

    On September 22, 2015 a joint statements by UN Special Rapporteurs on the rights of indigenous peoples was issued by  Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, and Michel Forst, which states among others:  “Military occupation of civilian institutions and killing of civilians, particularly in places such as schools which should remain safe havens for children from this type of violence, are unacceptable, deplorable and contrary to international human rights and international humanitarian standards.”

    UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, also endorsed the two experts’ call, including the request on the Aquino government to accept their urgent requests to visit the country in order to assess the environment in which human rights defenders operate in the Philippines. We are dismayed that those repeated requests  remain ignored and unheeded.  (For the full  statement of the UN special procedures, please follow  this link: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16481&LangID=E

    Signed this 27thth day of October in commemoration of the National Indigenous Peoples Month in the Philippines.

    DR. KIM YONG-BOCK (South Korea) OMEGA BULA (Zambia)
    Moderator General Secretary
    Dr. Kathryn Poethig (United States) Peter Paul Sengson  (Philippines)
    Co-Moderator Co-Moderator

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