Group to file human rights complaints before GRP-NDFP Joint Monitoring Committee

Indigenous peoples from Kapalong, Davao del Norte hold a protest rally at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples’ (NCIP) Region XI office in Davao City Thursday (16 April 2015). The lumads are calling for the scrapping of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) allegedly because it cannot protect them from militarization and mining companies operating in their communities. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 09 April) – Complaints of human rights violations allegedly by government forces will be filed before the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the government (GRP) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), a leader of a militant group said Monday.

Rafael Mariano, chair emeritus of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, told a press conference at the Lispher Inn here that the complaints will be based on the findings of the groups that participated in the three-day International Fact Finding and Solidarity Mission on state of farmers and Lumad rights in Southern Mindanao, Caraga, and Northern Mindanao from April 6 to 8.

Mariano, a former agrarian reform secretary, called on the JMC to investigate the alleged human rights violations against farmers and prosecute the suspects.

He also urged the military to honor the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law that the GRP signed with the NDFP in 1998.

The mission reported 11 incidents of extrajudicial killings in the three regions; 11 incidents of threats, harassments, and intimidation; 22 trumped-up charges; six incidents of forced evacuation involving 514 families; two incidents of strafing; nine incidents of coercion; 12 incidents of extortion;

two “frustrated” extrajudicial killings; one incident of torture; five illegal arrests and detention; two incidents of illegal search and seizure; attack on the Lumad-run Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. Academy; and landgrabbing in Tandog, Maramag, Bukidnon.

Mariano added the group wants President Rodrigo R. Duterte and principal perpetrators of the reported to be held responsible for violation of Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law and other laws pertaining to human rights protection.

He said they will file civil and administrative cases against the alleged perpetrators.

He added they will file complaints against Duterte, the military and police before the International Criminal Court and United Nations Human Rights Council if the government fails to take action.

He said they want to hold a dialogue with Public Attorney Office chief Persida Acosta and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on providing free legal assistance to the victims and continuous monitoring of their cases.

They will also recommend to the Department of Justice to review all cases involving political prisoners and victims of alleged trumped-up charges.

The group recommended the abolition of the Interagency Committee on Legal Action that is “instrumental” in filing of trumped-up charges.

Former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, a convener of Movement Against Tyranny, said the climate of impunity has continued while the number of alleged trumped-up charges against human rights advocates increased under the Duterte administration.

He said Duterte’s Oplan Kapayapaan was recycled from Oplan Bayanihan of former president Benigno Aquino III and Oplan Bantay Laya of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Arroyo is a close ally of Duterte. Over a thousand Left-leaning activists were killed during her watch.

Ocampo vowed to continue opposing federalism and pressure Duterte to lift the martial law in Mindanao.

The Islamic State-inspired Maute Group attacked the Islamic City of Marawi on May 23 last year, prompting Duterte to place Mindanao under martial law.

The island-wide martial law has been extended twice last year with the second extension to last until December 31, 2018.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Rep. France Castro said red-tagging of civilians worsened under martial law in Mindanao.

She said Lumad students continue to flee their communities due to militarization and the impact of martial law in the far-flung areas of Mindanao.

She said she was moved by a student who asked if peace could be restored in their community as they have grown tired of evacuating and want to continue attending classes.

She said the Makabayan bloc in Congress continues to call for the resumption of peace talks between the GRP and NDFP in order to address the root causes of armed struggle.

“I have seen the effect of martial law, it’s not necessarily peace. We want just and lasting peace. Militarization is not the answer to the problems of our society but just and lasting peace are to meet the needs of our people and less-opportune students,” she said.

Antonio Tinio, also an ACT representative, said martial law only benefits the interests of the big agribusiness companies and mining corporations in Mindanao and targets the poor farmers.

Anakpawis representative Ariel Casilao said they participated in the three-day mission to listen to testimonies of human rights violations to give voice to the farmers and Lumads in Congress.

He said they have asked the House committees on human rights and agrarian reform to conduct an inquiry on reported cases of human rights violations but that the committee on rules ignored it.

He said Congress failed to consider the situation of farmers and Lumads when it approved the extension of martial law.

He alleged that the military forced civilians to surrender even if they are not New People’s Army members.

Mariano said they want government officials, including prosecutors and judges, allegedly conniving with the military in extorting peasant victims of trumped-up charges investigated and prosecuted, and urged Congress to enact a law that prohibits the military from using civilian facilities for socio-civic purposes.

The group called for the immediate stoppage of projects that displace the Lumads such as plantations and mining ventures. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)