1,200 join Caraga protest vs human rights violations

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/10 Dec) – Some 1,200 activists from the different parts of Caraga Region converged in the streets here for a protest rally last Friday, on the eve of the 63rd anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Peasants, indigenous people, students and residents from Butuan City, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur joined the mass action to voice out the how the Aquino administration allegedly failed miserably in protecting the basic human rights of the people, especially those in the Caraga Region.

Vergilio Lincuna, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in the region, pointed out that in almost two years, the Pnoy administration has not been able to address issues of human rights violations in Caraga.

“The killings and abuse of lumads, journalists, farmers and people from the different sectors continue. People behind the atrocities have remained free. Where are the promises made by the President?” Licuna asked.

In a press conference called by the human rights group Karapatan, Atel Hijos of Gabriela said that there have been several unsolved cases of human rights violation in Caraga. The military, human rights advocates claim, are behind most of the cases.

Hijos said Karapatan Caraga has documented this year six cases of torture, victimizing 21 people, 4 of whom were children.

“This year alone, different indigenous communities here in our region were forced to evacuate eight times due to aggressive military combat operations,” she said, adding that 535 families, or more than 2,400 individuals, 500 of them children, left their homes.

Major Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division, said in a telephone interview that the rallyists accusations were all products of their “fertile imagination.”

He said that is “very unfair” for the group to just voice out in public and in the media their allegations against soldiers in the field. He urged them to instead file complaints through proper forum and prove the alleged human right abuses.

“Our men and women who are out there in the field have sacrificed there lives, away from their love ones, just to uphold peace and the rights of the people in the community,” Osias lamented.

The rallyists marched for several minutes from J Rosales Avenue to Montilla Boulevard, where they set up the mass action protest. Late in the afternoon, members of Anak Bayan, Kabataan and Student Christian Movement of the Philippines occupied three street corners along JC Aquino Avenue and Montilla Blvd and initiated planking, causing traffic in one of the city’s busiest streets to stop for a few minutes.

Some protesters threw tomatoes at the effigy of President Benigno Aquino III. (Erwin Mascarinas / MindaNews)