“The Duterte regime has targeted not only individuals, but entire communities, using bombs to threaten and intimidate hundreds of residents.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Human rights alliance Karapatan has documented at least 49 victims of extrajudicial killings since martial law was declared in Mindanao on May 23, 2017. Hundreds more became victims of torture, illegal arrest and detention and thousands more were victims of indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings
These among others are the content of the report by Karapatan, which they sent to seven United Nations independent experts and special procedures on May 22. The same report was also sent to Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Jose Luis Martin Gascon and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III in his capacity as Chairperson of the Negotiating Panel of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines in the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
The report documented violations of civil and political rights during the implementation of martial law in Mindanao, which marked its first year on Wednesday, May 23. The group calls on UN to look into these cases as well as the immediate lifting of martial law.
A look back: how martial law was extended to one year
President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao amid the ongoing clashes between the government troops and Maute extremist group. It was first implemented for 60 days but Congress, upon the recommendation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), approved its extension until the end of December 2017.
After declaring that Marawi is free from terrorist groups, the Duterte administration sought again for another extension of martial law in December 2017 to another year or until the end of 2018. This time, Duterte included the New People’s Army as part of the “terrorist groups” that the government intends to eradicate.
Progressive groups have consistently criticized the Duterte administration for its imposition of martial law in the island of Mindanao since the beginning. Various cause-oriented groups also filed a petition before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of martial law but majority of the magistrates voted in favor of its implementation and extension.
A National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM) was held at least twice in June and July last year to gather stories of the people affected by the hostilities in Marawi and the effects of martial law. The government and the AFP meanwhile maintain that human rights are being respected during its implementation of martial law.
But after a year Karapatan’s data showed numerous cases of human rights violations.
“The report outlines how the Duterte administration, through his own brand of war-on-terror with the imposition and extension of martial law in Mindanao and the continuing implementation of the government’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, has promoted State terrorism and violence in the Southern Philippines,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
Karapatan also documented 22 cases of torture, 116 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 89 victims of illegal arrest and detention and 336, 124 victims of indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings.
The 49 cases of extrajudicial killings include the killing of individuals who are members of peasant organizations such as the massacre of eight indigenous people in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato who occupied the area land-grabbed by the Consunjis; the killing of Arnel Otacan, member of the local peasant organization in Cabasagan village, Bosto, Davao Oriental and the murder of Salugpongan ‘Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center student Obello Bay-ao in Talaingod, Davao del Norte among other cases.
Displacement due to aerial bombings
Aerial bombings had reportedly displaced 404,654 individuals during the implementation of martial law in Mindanao. Karapatan said this has surpassed the records of post-Marcos presidencies.
“The Duterte regime has targeted not only individuals, but entire communities, using bombs to threaten and intimidate hundreds of residents,” the report read.
On May 25, 2017, just two days after the martial law declaration around 240 elements of the 39th and 72nd Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army (IBPA) conducted a series of aerial bombings from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The affected areas were Moro communities in sitios Pedtobawan, Campo, Apula and Centro Salat in Salat village and sitio Libpas in Tuael village, President Roxas North Cotabato.
More than 252 families or 1,000 individuals were displaced due to aerial bombing in the villages of Tangkulan, Anggaan and Damulog in Bukidnon, 100 meters away from Marawi City. Howitzer cannons were reportedly mounted at Kisupaan village, President Roxas, and North Cotabato.
Residents reportedly saw military choppers hovering above their communities at 10:00 a.m. before dropping around six bombs. From a MG20 helicopter, soldiers fired at the villagers’ houses. Also soldiers fired six 105 howitzer cannons towards the community. The same attack happened at 3:00 p.m. and
The report said the incident resulted to the death of Abdullah Mamansag, 34, Maguindanaoan farmer and resident of Salat village. “Mamansag was hit by a shrapnel in his spine and his right leg was cut off,” the report read.
Two residents of the same village also got injured from shrapnels, Norhamin Taligapin, 25 and Dodong, 14 (not his real name) who were brought to the Amas Provincial Hospital.
The fact finding mission launched by Kalinaw Mindanao covering different evacuation centers in Iligan and Lanao del Sur, also reported deaths of Maranao people due to aerial bombings.
According to the report, on May 23, 2017, father and son Idris Rascal, 55 and Jalal, 25 were evacuating their family when the two decided to go back to their house to salvage more belongings. “Jalal’s sister, during the interview, said she saw with her own eyes how the bomb hit the house while the two were inside. Her nephew, Saypudin, 13, followed but soldiers took him” the report read. After a year, bodies of Saypudin, Idris and Jalal have not yet been recovered.
Decampong brothers Sakraman, 18 and Takul, 15 were taken into custody by soldiers at Pantar, Lanao del Norte but their whereabouts have yet to be determined up to now.
The report said that on May 31, 2017 at the village of Papandayan Caniogan, Marawi City, people including the brothers were on their way out of the mosque after sambayang (prayer) when four bombs were dropped in the vicinity. The mosque was damaged killing Alim Baser, the imam who led the day’s worship.
The brothers on the other hand were hit by shrapnel. A female relative accompanied the two wounded brothers to get medical attention at the nearby town, Saguiran, Lanao del Sur. Upon arriving in Saguiran, police from the checkpoint took Sakraman and Takul instead and told the relative that they would take them to Pantar and have them treated there. But instead of going to a hospital, the police surrendered the brothers to soldiers stationed in Pantar.
“The soldiers also said that they would take the two under their custody because they were accused as ‘Isis’. The evacuees at Pantar who knew the children and their grandfather confirmed that the soldiers took Sakraman and Takul,” the report read.
Citing the AFP’s data, the report said 87 civilians were killed in the military’s operations in Marawi City, 40 of them died of sickness. Residents also said that there were almost 1,000 civilians who have been reported missing or brought to funeral parlors after being killed through indiscriminate firing.
Several aerial bombings and forced evacuation were also reported in areas of Shariff Aguak and Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Purok 4, sitio Tagbawi, Rizal village, Monkayo, Compostella Valley.
Military operations in nine Lumad communities in villages of Diatagon, Lianga, Buhisan, San Agustin , Surigao del Sur also forced the residents to evacuate for safety.
Forced or fake surrenders
Karapatan also documented 661 victims of forced or fake surrenders as of the end of March 2018. The group said majority of them are in Midnanao. The victims were accused of being members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“This specific violation not only targets individuals, but also entire organizations and communities. It is meant to create an illusion that the government’s counterinsurgency program is succeeding and the martial law declaration is an appropriate means to such end,” the report read.
One particular case was the supposed “surrender of 500 members of NPA” which, according to the report are residents of Lupiagan and Licoan, Sumilao, Bukidnon.
On Jan. 28, soldiers from the 1st Special Forces Battalion gathered the 500 individuals in their camp in Mampayad village, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. To persuade the residents to come to the camp, the soldiers announced that they would distribute P500 and half kilo of rice to each of them. At the detachment the residents were fed, asked to sign an attendance sheet, and had their pictures taken.
“Days later, the residents heard from the local radio that their names were included in the military’s report of NPA surrenderees,” the report read.
In Southern Mindanao Region, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas also documented 428 cases of forced or fake surrenders in its recent fact finding mission in April – 10 in Katipunan village, Kidapawan City, 18 members of Compostela Farmers Association in Manggayon village, Compostella Valley and 400 in Putting Bato, Ngan village also in Compostella.
The 400 residents of Katipunan village were also gathered on Feb. 14, 2018 in the village’s nursery where they were asked to write their names and their signatures or thumbmark in an attendance sheet to which the residents complied. Their names were reported days after in a local radio station, identifying them as surrenderees. Village councilor Elpidio Corgio said that at least 2,000 residents of their village out of the 4,000 were listed by
the 66th IBPA as “NPA surrenderees.”
“Those who refuse to surrender were forced to seek sanctuary and evacuate from their communities for their sanctuary,” the report read.
With these and among many other cases, Karapatan called on UN experts and its officials to conduct an investigation. They are also calling for the “immediate lifting of martial law in Mindanao, which has been used by Philippine State security forces as license to further perpetuate rights violations, the immediate investigation and prosecution of perpetrators which include the AFP, and elements of the police; and an end to counter-insurgency programs like Oplan Kapayapaan which encourage the use of ‘hit lists’ that target activists and civilians.”