PHILIPPINES: National team investigates militarization, rights abuses in South Mindanao

Thursday 22 May 2014

Date: 16 May 2014 Type: News Source: Keywords: militarization, human rights violations, Mindanao

DAVAO CITY — A national mission aimed at investigating reports of human rights abuses and recent increase in militarization of civilian communities in Southern Mindanao has concluded its onsite investigation in Talaingod in Davao del Norte, Paquibato in Davao City, Magpet and Arakan in North Cotabato and Maco in Compostela Valley.

The mission is led by Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region and composed of human rights advocates, indigenous rights activists, environmentalists, labor activists, parliamentarians, progressive peasant leaders, members of alternative media and other concerned individuals.

Pinoy Weekly joined the Talaingod-Central team that took the gruelling one-day trek to villages in Talaingod whose more than 1,700 residents (all members of the Talaingod Manobo tribe) were forced to evacuate to Davao City late March this year.

Some of the initial findings of the Talaingod-Central team:

-  After the villagers fled March 26 and 27, military occupied the civilian communities, including houses, schools and farms.
-  Residents of Brgy. Bayabas complained that soldiers allegedly defecated on their cooking pots.
-  In Brgy. Bagang, tribal leaders related how the military came to the villages and threatened them harm “if something should happen” to the soldiers, i.e. New People’s Army guerrillas should attack the soldiers.
-  In Bagang, a 60-plus-year-old female Manobo, Ubunay Manlaon, was abducted by soldiers on March 10 and forced to become their guide. Throughout the ordeal, her hands were tied. She said she was physically manhandled and sexually assaulted. Ubunay managed to escape her captors after seven days.
-  There appears to be a small outbreak of measles among children, especially infants born during and after the evacuation. During the Talaingod-Central team’s three-day visit, at least five (5) infants have already died due to the sickness. There are unverified reports that the bakwit -(evacuees) may had contracted measles during their stay in Davao City.

The mission members from the different field investigations in Talaingod-East (where residents were unable to evacuate as military troops encamped in their communities), Paquibato, Magpet-Arakan and Maco will hold a public presentation of their initial findings on May 17.

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