“The military’s admission about their crimes against the Ata-Manobo lumads further taints this government’s dignity and adds to their long list of human rights violations. The military’s pronouncement that it will indemnify the victims is not enough, there must be criminal and administrative charges filed against the perpetrators,” said Kerlan Fanagel, Secretary General of the PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao.
In the course of the military operations in Talaingod in January, PASAKA and the Solidarity Action Group for Indigenous Peoples (SAGIP) criticized the military for the massive military operations and consequent military abuses in the Ata-Manobo-populated hinterlands of Talaingod, despite the municipality’s strong denial of the atrocities happening in their area.
Recently, the 73rd IB pointed the finger at the Army Scout Rangers for perpetrating the abuses complained by the lumads. The alleged Scout Rangers, according to them, have now been reassigned to Bulacan. “Quite a lame excuse to wash their hands, cover up for their men and continue more lies when reports show that they were actually together during the operation they have conducted, it seemed that they keep on slapping their own faces,” Fanagel said.
PASAKA also lambasts the local Government’s lax(ity) in responding on the urgent matter.
“Because of the municipal government’s denial, intended to cover up its inefficacy while their constituents are being subject to the military’s harm, the victims of forcible evacuation and other human rights abuses have been made to wait for long,” Fanagel said.
Fanagel said that until now the municipal government of Talaingod denies that instances of evacuation took place.
“If the local government will only take time to know their constituents, listen to their sentiments and fears, they would understand why the lumads did not evacuate to the municipal hall to seek refuge. The lumads know that like in previous years, they would just be accused as liars and tagged as NPA’s if they complain against the military,” Fanagel said.
In a protest rally on February 8, staged in protest against the Government’s relentless militarization as well as in time (for) President Arroyo’s visit to Davao for the inauguration of the Davao Del Norte – Bukidnon road, PASAKA challenged President Arroyo’s business interests in Talaingod.
According to PASAKA, the massive military operations in January have been timed with the completion of the newly inaugurated road, the president’s visit as well as the declaration of large logging and mining investments in the region.
Echoing Salugpungan’s* fears, PASAKA stressed that the January military operations as well as the newly-inaugurated road were tailor-made for the convenience of commercial logging operations in Talaingod. Recent news reports also cited Talaingod as a new target for mining operations.
“More than any roads, bridges and other promises brought about by large profit-oriented projects that only seem to undermine our rights to our land, what the Lumads really need is for their rights and peace to be respected,” Fanagel concluded.
* Salugpungan or the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon is the local lumad organzation in Talaingod (with) more than 65 communities (as members).
PASAKA Secretary General
Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao
c/o Diakonia Center, IFI Compound, F. Torres St., Davao City;
Contact telephone #s: 305-0824