MANILA – Personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines answered hundreds of protesting indigenous peoples and Moro with water cannon blasts at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City this morning, Oct. 18.
The protesters, led by the newly-formed national minority alliance Kilusan ng Moro at Katutubong Mamamayan para sa Sariling Pagpapasya (Sandugo), mainly called for the scrapping of Oplan Bayanihan, the counterinsurgency program of the Aquino administration which remains in force under President Duterte.
Sandugo leaders also demanded the withdrawal of soldiers in communities and dismantling of paramilitary groups, the presence of both meant continued killings and harassment of leaders and activists and attacks on schools.
“Once again, the Armed Forces of the Philippines proved its sheer paranoia as its men violently dispersed the national minorities peacefully protesting against military operations in their communities,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan.
Ten indigenous peoples have been killed under the Duterte administration, according to human rights alliance Karapatan.
The protesters are part of the 3,000-strong Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya which arrived last week to launch Sandugo and bring the national minorities’ calls for self-determination and just peace in Manila.
Many of the delegates, who came from Luzon and Mindanao, were themselves victims of harassment, charged with fabricated criminal cases or targeted by government troops and paramilitary groups. Among them were students of the Alternative Learning Center for Livelihood and Agricultural Development (Alcadev), whose school director Emerito Samarca was killed by the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary men, along with Lumád leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo.
“Just as AFP troops kill Lumad and peasant leaders and militarize civilian communities in the countryside, they have no misgivings about violently dispersing national minorities here in Manila,” said Anakbayan Secretary General Einstein Recedes.
The protesters proceeded to stage a picket at the national headquarters of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame, right across Camp Aguinaldo.