“We need peace, respect for our right to the land we till, and protection for the environment, for our children and the future generation.”
This was the statement of Datu Guibang Apoga, leader of the Salugpungan ’Ta Igkanugon (Pagkakaisa sa Pagtatanggol ng Lupang Ninuno), in a rare audience with representatives of human rights and people’s organizations in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, sometime during the four-day National Solidarity Mission organized by Defend Talaingod, Save Pantaron Range Alliance on 11-15 May, 2014.
Datu Guibang has led the Talaingod Manobos in the Pantaron Range in their defense of the mineral and resource-rich biodiversity area against the entry of mining and logging companies and military operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) since 1993.
Recently, more than 1,300 Manobos forcibly evacuated from the area after a series of aerial bombings, indiscriminate firing and other human rights violations of the the 68th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) , 60th IB PA of the 1003rd Brigade, and the 4th Special Forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which started in 3 March 2014. After the successful negotiations with the local governments of Davao City and Davao del Norte for the pull-out of the military in the area, the Manobos returned to their homes during the first week of May.
The solidarity mission validated reports on the threats, harassment, divestment of properties, encampment of schools and health centers, destruction of farms, and even sexual molestation in the various sitios in Talaingod.
“The AFP’s operations through Oplan Bayanihan in Talaingod and in the rest of the country have only resulted to grave human rights violations, and social and economic impact on the lives of the people. The need to resume the peace talks between the Aquino government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines is more pronounced than ever. The GPH and the AFP should stop its dirty war against the people and instead should address the roots of the armed conflict in the country,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general who led the delegation of national organizations which joined the mission.
In a press conference after the mission, Palabay scored the AFP on the failure of Oplan Bayanihan’s militarist objectives, in addressing the plight of the Manobos and communities. “In the case of Talaingod, the AFP has miserably failed in breaking the organized strength of the Manobos in upholding their right to land, despite continuous military operations,” she added.
Palabay said that necessary social and economic reforms are vital components of an environment for just and lasting peace, reforms which are the next major agenda of the stalled GPH-NDFP peace talks.
“It goes to show that the Aquino administration and the AFP are not at all serious in addressing these urgent and comprehensive concerns, if all they do is unleash their war against the people through Oplan Bayanihan,” Palabay concluded.
Karapatan secretary general
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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.