Fact-finding team accuses military of rights abuses against lumad communities

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/22 September) — Ata-Manobos in at least eight villages in Talaingod, Davao del Norte have reportedly been living under the guns of the 60th Infantry Battalion since July this year through ‘hamletting’ and other forms of human rights violations, a fact-finding team composed of various lumad organizations today said in a statement.

Hamletting is a military strategy of controlling the movements of civilian populations in order to prevent them from supposedly aiding the ‘enemy’. It was widely used by the Americans during the Vietnam War and by the Philippine military in Mindanao during martial law.

The team said the ongoing ‘militarization’ coincided with the impending entry of a plantation project in these areas.

It said some 20 elements of the 60th IB have been encamping right within the villages of

Sitio Dulyan, Barangay Sto.Nino.

Troops belonging to a Re-engineered Special Operations Team, now called the Community Assistance Development Team, have also encamped within Sitios Banwalay, Bagang, Laboo, Laslasakan, Bugni, Sambolongan, and Nasilaban in Barangay Palma Gil, it added.

Schools have become military camps, the fact-finding team said, adding lumad teachers at Salupongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Learning Center, the only functional school in the area, reportedly experienced harassment and were branded as communists.

“The teachers were constantly being intimidated and harassed by the soldiers led by Sgt. Chirstopher Oliveros. They testified how they were constantly interrogated and their credibility was questioned,” the statement said.

Residents have also been forced to join a paramilitary group called the Bagani Force.

Bagani is a lumad term for warrior.

The team said the entry of troops is meant to weaken the resistance of Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon, a lumad organization, against the entry of economic ventures into their ancestral lands.

It said some 40,000 hectares of land in Talaingod have been eyed as coffee plantations by Nestle Philippines and that a Memorandum of Agreement between the company and the government had already been signed two months ago.

The statement also said the military held the mission team for three hours on its way back from the area but allowed it to leave upon knowing that some reporters had learned about the incident.

The fact-finding mission took place on September 15 and 16 and was led by Salupongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon, Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao, KATRIBU Partylist and PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao. (MindaNews)