From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 15): Rights advocates hit ‘encampments’
The International Solidarity Mission, a contingent of human rights advocates from European Union and Asia last week discovered military encampments in day care centers, multi-purpose centers and barangay halls in some areas of Agusan del Sur.
The mission disclosed its finding after a visit to Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur last March 9 and 10. The HR mission said in a statement that the military was using barangay halls, daycare centers and multi-purpose centers as camps.
Sister Mary Francis Anover, RSM, who is national coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, said the encamped military in barangay halls and other public facilities invited threat to the civilian community.
“In the guise of conducting census and consultations they are putting the lives of the civilians, especially the children in the community at risk,” Sister Anover said.
Bishop Raul Amorcillo, Bishop of Iglesia Filipinia Independiente (IFI) of the Diocese of Bukidnon said he observed during the mission that in the indigenous communities in Agusan del Sur, “martial law is present”.
The two religious leaders were among the “Balit Mission” contingent that visited and sleep with evacuees in Barangay balit, San Luis Agusan del Sur last March 9 and 10, 2015.
“There is indeed violation of the law as in Article 10, Section 22 of Republic Act 7610 states that public infrastructures such as schools, hospitals and rural health units shall not be utilized for military purposes such as command posts, barracks, detachments, and supply depots”, Karapatan Caraga secretary general Eliza Rose Pangilinan said in an interview.
Pangilinan, Alvin Ygot of the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP-Caraga) and Atel Hijos, Chairperson of Gabriela Caraga were among local progressive group leaders who accompanied the ISM Mission to Balit.
The “Balit Mission was initiated by various groups in Mindanao such as Kasalo, Kalumaran, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), and the Northern Mindanao Religious and Bishops’ Ecumenical Forum.
It is part of the “Mindanao Bakwit Solidarity Mission” organized by the Mindanao-wide alliance of indigenous peoples, Kalumaran.
International human rights and lumad groups like International Alliance for Asian Indigenous People and IP People’s Pact in Asia were the international component of the Balit Mission who went to Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur last March 9 and March 10.
The contingent even sleep for a night March 9 , 2015 evening with more than 1,000 lumad evacuees mostly members of the Banwaon Tribes in evacuation centers in Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.
Lumads from 14 tribal communities in San Luis, Agusan del Sur evacuated from their homes since January 23, 2015 as a result of skirmishes that were apparently sparked by the December 22, 2014 murder of barangay chairman Necasio Precioso Sr. of Balit, San Luis town perpetuated allegedly by the military.
Karapatan and the Rural Missionaries’ Association of the Philippines said Precioso’s family had been accused as a supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA) by the military.
According to the lumads in the area the slain barangay captain was a human rights defender since 1995.
The Banwaons in 14 communities in the hinterlands of San Luis municipality fled from their homes due to militarization guised as Community Organizing for Peace and Development. (COPD).
The Banwaon Tribal Datus’ tribal communities were united that the COPD is intended to pave the way for large mining companies to operate in the tribals’ ancestral domain.
Gabriela secretary general for Caraga Atel Hijos said the Balit Mission is to show solidarity and support to some Banwaon people who were displaced as a result of “militarization and paramilitarism” in their ancestral lands in San Luis, Agusan del Sur.