11 September 2012
UCCP Bishop avers with Vice-Mayor Duterte’s call for military pull-out
In light of the Paquibato incident which had Davao City Vice-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and human rights groups strongly demanding for the pull-out of all military detachments and patrol bases in civilian communities, United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Bishop Modesto Villasanta, convener of the Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP) urges the 10th Infantry Division-Philippine Army to heed the call.
Villasanta urged for a just closure on the grenade incident in Fatima village, Paquibato that has hurt at least 45 civilians last September 1.
“This is for the benefit of the farmers and Lumad communities who complained of being used as human shields and are subject to various forms of threats, harassment and other abuses by the military elements. Under the guise of peace and development, hinterland villages are subject to counter-insurgency operations under Oplan Bayanihan,” said Villasanta.
“The NPA has taken the first step. It has owned up to its errors, committed to indemnify and levy necessary sanctions and punishments on those responsible for the incident. The second party, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is now being challenged to heed the call made by the city’s second highest Chief Executive. And it is compelled by law to do so lest it proves it contempts to the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and human rights protocols,” the EJP convener added.
Villasanta recounted that human rights groups and concerned Paquibato residents have been persistent in their demands for the pull-out of military troops, reiterated in series of protest action and lobbying long before the Paquibato incident.
Aside from the detachment situated some three meters away from the village hall in Fatima, there are 23 detachments of the 69th Infantry Battalion and 84th IB spread in Paquibato, Marilog and Baguio districts in Davao City. In the whole Southern Mindanao and boundary villages, there are more or less 10,500 military personnel under the 10th ID, 6th ID and 4th ID, making the region the most militarized region in the country.
Last year, the City Council investigated the presence of a detachment situated in close proximity with a public elementary school in Paradise Embac, Paquibato. Vice Mayor Duterte supported the Sangguniang Panlungsod’s resolution urging the dismantling of the military detachment, in direct contrast to Mayor Sara Duterte’s position.
“The SP resolution underscored the dangers posed by the military detachment especially on children. The resolution takes off from the complaints of parents and teachers of Paradise Embac who were forced to suspend classes due to the construction of a detachment of 69th IB within three meters outside the schools,” Villasanta said.
He pointed out that the military must voluntary pull-out its troops and detachment from civilian populated areas in view of all existing protocols on war and human rights instruments.
The bishop reiterated the reality of armed conflict in the country and invoked the universality of the IHL which demands sincere adherence from the two conflicting parties.
“To attain peace, we must address the root causes of oppression and exploitation. There is no short cut. It is a long and tedious process that requires sincere concern for the welfare of the poor majority which is being pushed to take up arms because of the social injustices and state of impunity that has blanketed our country,” said Villasanta.
The EJP has been actively involved in peace work and has engaged in the facilitation of the humanitarian release of prisoners of wars, as well as in the conduct of interfaith missions and other direct services for militarized farmer and indigenous communities. It is composed of church peoples, academician and supports the pursuance of the peace negotiation between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic front of the Philippines.
“Now more than ever, the GPH must push for the resumption of the peace process in order to come up with sustainable progress on economic and social reforms for the people,” Villasanta concludes.
Bp. Modesto Villasanta,
Exodus for JJustice and Peace Convener (EJP)
Contact No: 09286920141