“Unsurprisingly, military rule has constricted mechanisms for redress, platforms for protest, and initiatives that petition the government for immediate action.”
By RUTH LUMIBAO
MANILA — Mindanao has been under martial law for almost eight months, with back-to-back extensions. While there have been debates, sadly not in the Lower House, on the basis for the extensions, not much attention have been given to reports of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by the military and uniformed personnel. With additional battalions being sent to Mindanao to combat “terrorism,” the bellicose declarations of President Duterte, and the intensification of the armed conflict, the threat of more rights violations being committed are ever present.
“With the martial law declaration in Mindanao, Duterte and his state forces have become every bit as fascist, every bit as brutal, and every bit as fraudulent and deceptive, concocting new and more atrocious ways to commit rights violations in indigenous and peasant communities,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
During the deliberations in the House of Representatives for the second martial law extension, the Department of National Defense (DND) feigned ignorance of reports of human rights violations being committed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other state agents.
They were not able to receive any of the reports, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana then said.
Just this month, three major human rights violations were allegedly committed by the AFP in Agusan Del Sur, Compostella Valley, and Surigao Del Sur.
On Feb. 15, Kenard Barientos, a resident of Sitio Kabaohan, Bunawan Brook village, Bunawan, Agusan Del Sur, was gunned down by elements of the 75th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA) on the allegation that he was a member of the New People’s Army.
On Feb. 17, 24 youth and children delegates of a Kabataan Ayaw sa Droga workshop were abducted by soldiers from the 25th IBPA in New Dalaguit, Montevista, Compostella Valley. Eugene Laurente, trainer and community leader, was also abducted. Later, the 10th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (IDPA) issued a statement accusing the participants of being child soldiers.
On Feb. 19, 10 delegates, including four human rights advocates from foreign countries, of the International Solidarity Mission (ISM) were refused entry to Diatagon village, Lianga, Surigao Del Sur. The team was on its way to communities in Lianga, where human rights violations were reportedly being committed. Intensified militarization of communities, leading to forced evacuations, and food blockades, have also been reported. The participants in the ISM were held at a checkpoint by elements of the 75th IBPA and were asked to write their names in a logbook.
Palabay remarked that martial law has been used by the Duterte administration to arbitrarily target groups, organizations, and individuals “who have taken the initiative to investigate the impact of the Duterte regime’s fascist policies on the ground.”
“Unsurprisingly, military rule has constricted mechanisms for redress, platforms for protest, and initiatives that petition the government for immediate action. In keeping a deaf ear, the government is keen on brushing over the fact that its state forces have been the foremost perpetrator of human rights abuses,” the human rights defender said in a statement.
On Feb. 20, Department of National Defense was set to make a report to the House of Representatives about the implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao. The span of its report would be from its first imposition on May 23, 2017 up to Feb.14. However, the committee meeting was converted into an executive session. As of press time, Bulatlat will gather more information before a report on this is released.