‘It’s a military operation,’ Katribu says of dawn ‘raid’ of Panay relief center

The masked men took laptops, memory sticks, printed documents, external hard drives, mobile phones, logbooks and cameras.


MANILA – Around 1 a.m. yesterday, the office of Panay Center for Disaster Response (PCDR) in Jaro, Iloilo was ransacked by three masked men who also handcuffed and covered with packaging tape the faces of three people at the office at the time. The masked men took laptops, memory sticks, printed documents, external hard drives, mobile phones, logbooks and cameras.

In a statement, Lingkod Katribu condemned the incident, calling it a raid and accusing the state military as behind the crime.

Lingkod Katribu, the disaster and relief program of indigenous peoples group Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP), works with PDRC in extending relief to indigenous communities affected by the typhoon Yolanda (typhoon Haiyan) in Panay island.

Kakay Tolentino, program head of Lingkod Katribu and officer of KAMP, said they agree with PCDR’s suspicion that the military is behind the “ransack.”

“This is no ordinary robbery. The operation was precise, targeting objects that normally would not be the target if they had intended to merely loot the place,” Tolentino said.

PCDR believes this raid or ransacking is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Oplan Bayanihan, which seems to regard “even providing humanitarian relief as insurgency,” Tolentino said.

Oplan Bayanihan is the internal security or counter-insurgency program of the Aquino government criticized by human rights organizations as the ‘blueprint’ of human rights violations and impunity in the Philippines. It regards and vilifies critics of government as part or front of revolutionary groups which it targets for “neutralization” through intensified military operations.

Yolanda victims victimized again

The PCDR is providing relief aid to communities in Northern Iloilo, Capiz, Antique, and Aklan. Amid persistent reports that the Aquino administration and local government units are providing very scant, “color-coded” or politically-biased relief, and implementing a private, profit-oriented type of “rehabilitation,” PCDR has worked silently providing about 50,000 families in the region with relief and rehabilitation assistance. They helped provide food, non-food aid, shelter, among others.

Lingkod Katribu views the attack on its office and staff as “an outrage, an affront to donors here and abroad who had contributed in providing relief to the people devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.”

Tolentino condemned the raid of the disaster relief center as an “act of terror to people and institutions providing relief and rehabilitation to the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda.”

Disaster response in aid of profit, counter-insurgency

Ever since the super-typhoon made landfall and devastated central Philippines, the Aquino government’s immediate response, after a conspicuous absence for days, had been to deploy its troops and re-establish ‘control’ of the area, amid efforts to seemingly minimize the reported impact of the disaster. President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III began with the public castigation of a local police chief who estimated that as much as 10,000 might have died in Leyte alone. Months later, the number of deaths has reached more than 18,000, by estimates of an international forensic expert.

Relief goods coming from the government reportedly arrived late – it started arriving days after landfall, with victims complaining that they were too scanty and far in between to provide for their urgent, basic needs.

From then on, the Aquino administration resorted to reporting efforts and actions, which it claimed as to the best of its ability. Meanwhile, typhoon survivors who soon formed a region-wide alliance before the 100th day of Yolanda’s landfall criticized Aquino’s claims of efficient and adequate relief and rebuilding reports, saying that its response was hardly felt, and when they were, they were not appropriate to the needs of communities. The group also challenged the No-Build Zone policy.

In a dialogue with Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, she repeatedly demanded names and addresses of families who did not receive relief from government. These, amid reports that soldiers were questioning families of activists and critics of Aquino’s “rehabilitation”.

Now some of these data concerning the situation on the ground of Yolanda-struck communities in Northern Iloilo, Capiz, Antique, and Aklan, which are being served by PCDR, are in the hands of masked men believed to be members of the military.

“It is an outrage that the people who had willingly offered their time and effort to make up for the government’s criminal negligence in providing just relief and rehabilitation for the survivors of Yolanda are now being targeted and treated as enemies of the state. This is truly a dire state for human rights in the Philippines,” Tolentino of Katribu said.

According to Tolentino, the PCDR staff has also been previously charged by the military with trumped-up cases but later dismissed by court for lack of merit. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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