Protests mark commemoration of Human Rights day in Davao region

Dec. 10, 2014

DAVAO CITY – Thousands of protesters joined the commemoration of the International Human Rights day in different parts of the region Wednesday.

An estimated 8,000 protesters joined the protest actions in Digos (4,000), Kidapawan (3, 000), and Davao City (2,000).

According to Sheena Duazo, spokesperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), “human rights violations are rampant under the present administration because of the military operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the communities.”

Bayan claimed that in the region alone there are already 92 cases of extra-judicial killings recorded under the present administration.

“Despite the intensified protests and resistance of the people, state forces have forcibly occupied civilian homes in rural areas, barangay halls and chapels,” Duazo said.

Duazo cited the cases of encampments of schools in the countrysides including the ones in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, where military troop encampment affected 1,500 students.

In an interview with Radyo ni Juan, Officer-in-Charge of the Commission on Human Rights region XI Atty. Irene Montero confirmed that, “supposed to be, encampment near the school including passable roads of the civilians, violate the International Humanitarian Law.”

She said that encampment should not be allowed in the communities, adding that “civilians might get caught in the crossfires.”

According to Montero, the CHR is already investigating the recent cases of the human rights violations that resulted from military encampment in the communities.

“We have already started the investigation on the recent case of military presence in Talaingod and Kapalong, Davao del Norte, but I cannot disclose the information because the investigation is still going on,” she said.

Meanwhile, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) deputy commander Brigadier General Alexander Balutan, in a press conference Wednesday, posted a question to the media on how the progressive groups define “militarization”.

Balutan said “they [progressive groups] always bring the issue on militarization, if we would define militarization, it is when soldiers are helping the remote areas in terms of security to protect the flagship projects of the government.”

“If this is how they will define militarization it will be a good militarization, let us militarize it all,” Balutan said.

However, Duazo said that the “flagship projects” of the military are “already tasks of other government agencies.”

“Education, social needs and health are tasks of the Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Health, not the AFP,” Duazo said.

She added that “what the AFP actually does are combat operations in the community.”

“They are doing this to force the community to allow mining operations in their lands,” Duazo said.

Davao City councilor Leah Librado also denounced the “heightened” militarization in the region and all over the country.

She explained that it “imperils the lives of mostly women and children and breeds all forms of violence including psychological and physical abuse.”

Librado cited the recent rape case of a minor in Bukidnon allegedly perpetrated by a member of the 84th Infantry Battalion as “one glaring impact of military encampment in the communities.”

Librado demanded for the “pull-out of military troops in peasant and lumad communities, in schools and other public infrastructures.”

Librado said that the encampment is “both illegal and dangerous.” (with reports from Sarah Andaya, Davao Today intern)

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